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article imageAbout 1,000 Filipino workers in Libya stranded in Sahara Desert

By Leo Reyes     Feb 25, 2011 in Politics
About 1,000 Filipino workers in the Waha Oil Company located around 100 kilometers away from the second largest city of Benghazi in eastern Libya, need help as they were reported to have been abandoned by their employers.
The appeal for assistance was relayed to the Philippine Daily Inquirer Friday by close relatives of some of the workers who are in contact with the stranded oil field workers.
In an e-mail, one of this reporter's sources said the workers were in dire need of help.
"They are willing to be brought back to the Philippines. However, they are afraid to venture out of their camp in the desert because they may encounter violent groups on their way (to Benghazi, the nearest city)....They would like the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration to know about their plight so that they will be given assistance."
Two other e-mails made more or less the same disclosures.
The Philippine government has been criticized for not moving fast in evacuating thousands of Filipino overseas workers in Libya.
Thousands have crossed the Libyan borders to Egypt and Tunisia but they are not aware of shelters where they could stay while waiting for transportation back to the the country. Government blames difficulty in communicating with the evacuees due to restrictions by Libyan authorities.
President Benigno Aquino said the government had made genuine efforts to help the stranded Filipinos, but it didn't have the resources or manpower to launch mass evacuations.
"There has been criticism that we have not been handling or attending to them. That is not correct," Aquino told reporters.
"There are severe limitations on what we can do," he said, stressing that the embassy staff of 25 in the Libyan capital Tripoli had been overwhelmed.
The Philippines has about 30,000 overseas workers in Libya, mostly deployed in oil-related industries.
The government is working with both Tunisia and Egypt as the primary exit points of Filipinos fleeing Libya.
President Aquino said the government is talking to a shipping company to bring the evacuees to Malta but the cost is quite high which runs to about a million euros.
Aside from government efforts, Aquino said the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is also assisting Filipinos and other migrant workers in Libya.
“They are also drawing up plans and actualizing these plans to safeguard all of these migrants who are working in Libya. We are participating in their efforts. We are also asking their assistance to assist our citizens,” said Aquino.
More about Libya, Sahara desert, Protests, civil unrest, oilfields
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