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Philippines to evacuate 13,000 from Libya

MANILA, February 25, 2011 (AFP) – The Philippine government said Friday it planned to bring 13,000 of its citizens from riot-torn Libya with the help of their employers, though it gave no timetable.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said the government was making arrangements for Filipinos to escape via chartered ferries and commercial flights.

The ferries would take Filipinos from Tripoli to Malta, and those based in Benghazi, Libya’s number-two city, to Crete.

“In view of the escalating violence and widespread insecurity in Libya, the department is on a full relocation and repatriation mode,” he said, adding the government had advised Filipinos to head to designated points.

“Our objective is to do this as quickly as possible. The (government) is committed to ensuring the safety and welfare of our beloved Filipinos in Libya.”

The statement said the government estimated 13,000 Filipinos would by taken out of the country under the evacuation program.

The government estimates there are 26,000 Filipinos working in Libya. The other half are expected to leave the country with their multinational employers.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Ed Malaya said he did not know when the ferries would arrive in Libya.

“They are still being arranged,” he told AFP when asked for a timetable.

Manila-based labour rights monitor Migrante International puts the actual number of Filipinos in Libya at closer to 36,000.

Migrante president Garry Martinez, who has been critical of the government’s evacuation efforts, said the latest announcement had not changed anything on the ground.

He said it was too dangerous for the stranded Filipinos to travel to the assembly points from where they were supposed to catch the boats.

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