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DFA issues last call for Pinoys to leave Libya

MANILA, Mar 23 (Mabuhay) – Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario was in Tripoli to make a last call for Filipinos in Libya to go home.

A Department of Foreign Affairs report said del Rosario led 31 Filipino workers out of Tripoli through the Tunisian border, with some 10 nurses and others including dependents.

The group joins 23 repatriates brought out of Libya’s capital yesterday by Ambassador Alejandro Vicente, and who are now in Djerba, Tunisia awaiting repatriation.

Thirty more, including 19 Filipino students in Tripoli, are expected to arrive in Djerba Thursday, which is government’s last schedule for voluntary repatriation.

At the Philippine Embassy in Tripoli, a large group of leaders met with Secretary del Rosario to thank the Aquino government for protecting them by encouraging repatriation.

They reported, however, that many preferred putting their lives at risk over the prospects of non-employment and economic hardship.

“Karamihan po gustong umuwi, pero mas pinili nilang mag-stay sa Libya kasi wala namang trabahong maabutan sa Pilipinas” (Many want to go home, but they preferred to stay in Libya because there are no job opportunities in the Philippines), one of the Filipino leaders said.

Most Filipino workers were promised increases in their salary if they stay, while others were told they would lose entitlement to gratuity pay equivalent to one full month’s salary if they do not finish their contracts.

“I think we’re safe here,” said one nurse. “Our employer promised to take care of us and told us that if worse comes to worst, we will be housed in the hospital and provided with everything we need for free, on top of salary increase.”

A nursing professor in a university in Benghazi said that they were asked to stay, and would be paid their wages even if there are no classes. “We go to class, eat, wait, and get paid,” she admitted.

Another admitted that she would not readily give up a salary ranging between 4,500 to 6,000 Libyan dinar, or 160,000 to 200,000 pesos.

Of the more than 2,000 nurses with dependents in Libya, around 1,600 have preferred to stay. 800 of these nurses and dependents are in Tripoli. Over 100 professors have likewise opted to remain in the country.

The Filipino workers are actually more concerned about the difficulty in remitting money to their family than the air strikes on different parts of Libya.

Secretary Del Rosario promised to arrive at a mechanism for sending remittances through the Philippine Embassy.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael E. Seguis will remain in Tripoli for a few more days to take care of the remittance issue and the last-minute repatriates.

On the Benghazi side, only 3 Filipinos have so far arrived at the As Sallum border where they received help by a team from the Philippine Embassy in Cairo. (MNS)

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