Elmer Cato, chargè d’affaires at the Philippine embassy in Libya, continues to appeal to Filipinos in the North African country to avail themselves of the government’s repatriation program.
Pinoys in Libya at risk as clashes continue
Helen Flores (The Philippine Star) - May 25, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Around 400 Filipinos in Tripoli, Libya are in danger as clashes between United Nations-backed government forces and rival militias continue, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.

Elmer Cato, chargè d’affaires at the Philippine embassy in Libya, continues to appeal to Filipinos in the North African country to avail  themselves of the government’s repatriation program.

Cato earlier said almost 40 Filipino nurses and engineers “refused to relocate from areas in the outskirts of Tripoli, where heavy fighting continues to rage.”

“Another 400 are at risk if the fighting enters Tripoli proper itself,” he said in a post on Twitter on Thursday.

“These Filipinos are in areas in the direct path of the fighting. We are talking to them to convince them to reconsider their decision to stay in Tripoli and opt for repatriation or if not, to just move to safer areas once the fighting gets closer to them,” Cato told The STAR.

There are around 2,000 Filipinos in Libya, more than half of them are in Tripoli.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on May 1 raised alert level 4 or mandatory evacuation of Filipinos in Tripoli.

However, only 55 OFWs have so far availed of the government’s repatriation program and have already returned home.

“We have repatriated 55 so far of the estimated 1,000-plus in the Tripoli area covered by level 4,” Cato said.

He said the embassy expects a surge in requests for repatriation should the fighting enter Libya’s capital city.

“We reiterate our appeal to families in the Philippines of Filipinos working in the areas near Tripoli where heavy fighting has been taking place to convince their loved ones to relocate to safer areas or seek shelter at the Philippine embassy while they still can,” Cato said.

Based on reports, the Libyan Arab Armed Forces led by military general Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive on April 3 to try and capture Tripoli, where the internationally recognized government is based.

Prime Minister Fayez al-Serraj of the UN-backed Government of National Accord has vowed to defend Tripoli, accusing Haftar – who is popular in the city of Benghazi for his role in driving out Islamists – of launching a coup, reports said.

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