DFA orders evacuation of Filipinos in Tripoli

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) ordered the evacuation of more than 1,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Tripoli and surrounding areas due to security threats, as fierce fighting rages for control of Libya's capital.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro "Teddyboy" Locsin Jr issued this order as he raised Alert Level 4 in Tripoli and surrounding areas, said the DFA on Wednesday, May 1. This was "due to increased threats to the safety and security of more than 1,000 Filipinos who are still there." 

The DFA states that Alert Level 4 means "evacuation/mandatory repatriation." This alert level is issued "when there is large-scale internal conflict or full-blown external attack."

The alert level covers Tripoli and "other areas within a 100-kilometer radius from the capital." The DFA said this alert level was raised "after a number of Filipinos suddenly found themselves in the middle of fierce fighting" on Monday, April 29.

"In raising the alert level, Secretary Locsin appealed to Filipinos still in Tripoli to seriously consider repatriation before the situation escalates further. He also requested the help of families in the Philippines in convincing their loved ones in Tripoli to accept the repatriation offer before it's too late," said the DFA.

The Philippine embassy in Tripoli said that under Alert Level 4, it "will redouble its efforts in persuading Filipinos to go home." 

Chargé d'Affaires Elmer Cato explained that "the fighting in the outskirts of Tripoli will also soon make it difficult for the embassy to respond to urgent requests for assistance from distressed nationals."

Locsin pointed out in a tweet on Wednesday: "Alert Level 4 is mandatory evacuation but we cannot compel – and rightly so. What is mandatory is that DFA stays in Tripoli until the last OFW goes – and then it stays." 

The fighting in Libya has killed at least 278 people and wounded more than 1,300, according to a toll released last April 24 by the World Health Organization.

It has also forced 41,000 people to flee combat areas around Tripoli, while many remain trapped and in need of humanitarian assistance. – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.

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