810 Filipinos from Libya to arrive in Philippines

Paterno Esmaquel II
Having fled strife-torn Libya, the Filipinos sail to Malta, where a chartered Philippine Airlines flight will bring them back to Manila

810 TO FOLLOW. More than a dozen Filipino workers from Libya arrive on August 6, 2014 after fleeing the strife-torn North African country. File photo by Jedwin Llobrera/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Up to 810 Filipinos from Libya will soon arrive in the Philippines after boarding the only ship chartered by the Philippine government to bring its nationals out of the strife-torn country.

Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) spokesman Charles Jose told reporters on Friday, August 15, that the ship is now headed to Malta, from where a chartered Philippine Airlines flight will bring them back to Manila.

The number of Filipino repatriates rose to this number after 367 overseas Filipino workers in Misrata, Libya, boarded the chartered vessel on Thursday afternoon, August 14.

On Thursday morning, 443 Filipino workers in Benghazi, Libya also boarded the ship.

The DFA said if Filipinos decide to flee Libya after Thursday, they will be left with land evacuation as their only option. (READ: Philippines ends P78.2-M sea evacuation from Libya)

No more chartered ship

Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario had said the Philippine government will not send another chartered ship to Libya because “it’s difficult to get the ship, and we don’t have the numbers to be able to support another ship.”

The Philippine government paid P78.2 million ($1.8 million*) to rent the 1,500-seater ship that came from Malta. (READ: Repatriating Filipinos in Libya could cost P169M)

The 810 Filipino repatriates filled only around half the ship’s seating capacity.

This means around 10,000 Filipinos remain in the North African country on the brink of civil war.

The DFA explained that as of Tuesday, August 12, up to 1,625 Filipinos from Libya have returned to the Philippines.

This is equivalent to 12.5% of the 13,000 Filipinos in Libya before the Philippines began repatriating its nationals.

Thousands of them still refuse to leave Libya due to fear of joblessness in the Philippines. (READ: Filipinos in Libya: We can survive war, not joblessness)

Libya, however, has suffered chronic insecurity since dictator Moammar Gaddafi was overthrown in 2011, with the new government unable to check militias that helped to oust him. The new government has also been facing a growing threat from Islamist groups. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.