Non-core PH embassy staff in Libya sent to Tunisia

MANILA, Philippines – Non-core staff of the Philippine Embassy in Tripoli, Libya are being relocated to neighboring Tunisia, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Monday, July 28, as Filipinos leaving the country continue to arrive home in trickles.

This comes as "violence and lawlessness" are becoming an increasing concern in the Libyan capital, with armed groups fighting over the control of the country's main airport.

The Embassy in Tripoli will be manned by "male officers and staff," with the addition of the members of the Rapid Response Teams sent there to aid in the ongoing repatriation of Filipinos from the country.

"Staff dependents were repatriated last week," the agency said in a statement.

This also comes as 30 more Filipinos from Libya are set to arrive in Manila Tuesday, July 29, bringing the number of repatriated citizens so far to 708.

Tuesday's arrivals will be in two flights, set to arrive in the afternoon at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) terminal 1.

"Twenty four (24) of them are set to arrive at 4:00 p.m. on board QR926, while the remaining six OFWs will arrive at 4:35 p.m. on board EK332," the DFA said in another statement.

"They will be briefed and assisted by DFA and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) representatives at the airport," the agency said.

The DFA Alert Level 4 is currently in effect in Libya, and this means mandatory evacuation.

"DFA urges all Filipino nationals to immediately contact the Philippine Embassy in Tripoli and register for repatriation," the department said.

Increasing violence

Aside from the Philippines, several other countries have urged their citizens to leave the North African nation, currently seeing an increase in violence not seen since the overthrow of former strongman Moammar Gaddafi back in 2011.

Two weeks of fighting between armed groups for the control of the capital's international airport has left at least 97 people dead. The violence has spread to other major cities, such as Benghazi and Misurata.

Countries that have called their citizens to leave Libya include Egypt, United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Malta, Spain, and Turkey.

The Libyan health ministry also warned that foreigners leaving could cause a shortage of health workers, particularly since around 3,000 of the estimated 13,000 Filipinos there are doctors and nurses.

A Filipino construction worker has also been beheaded by his kidnappers, because he was not a Muslim. He was kidnapped July 15, and his remains were found in a hospital July 20.

Libya's interim government has warned that the fighting between those vying for control of the strategic airport threatened to tear the country apart. – With reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com

From the Department of Foreign Affairs

Filipinos can contact the Embassy through the telephone numbers (00218) 918-244-208 / (00218) 911061166, and the e-mail addresses tripoli.pe@gmail.com; tripoli.pe@dfa.gov.ph. The Embassy's address is Km 7 Gargaresh Road, Abu Nawas, P.O. Box 12508, Tripoli.

The DFA’s 24-hour hotlines are also available for families of OFWs in Libya. Those who have questions and concerns about the conditions of their relatives in Libya can call the hotline numbers (02) 552-7105 / (02) 834-4685. They may also send their queries by e-mail to oumwa@dfa.gov.ph.