OFWs in Libya on way to Command Posts in border countries for repatriation

February 24, 2011 11:58 am 

By Gloria Jane Baylon

MANILA, Feb. 24 — A number of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who have been trapped in Libya due to escalating anti-government protests in that North African country, are now crossing the Libyan-Egyptian border for voluntary repatriation to the Philippines, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Among those expected at the border is Engineer Judith Tuviera and her employer, whose identity was not disclosed. Another clutch of more than 20 OFWs who are reported to be crossing Tobruk in Libya to Alexandria in Egypt are expected at the border Thursday.

A team from the Philippine embassy in Cairo, led by Consul-General Renato Duenas Jr., is at the designated spot at the border, in a Command Post that will be providing assistance to OFWs exiting Libya from Benghazi, Al-Baida and neighboring area, DFA spokesperson Eduardo Malaya said.

A massive voluntary repatriation plan, with a budget of more than USD150,000 under DFA’s Assistance to Nationals (ATN) fund, and P100 million from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, is being coordinated by DFA’s Ricardo Endaya, executive director of the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (DFA-OUMWA), and an expert Middle East hand particularly on repatriation.

The task normally would have been assigned to Ambassador Roy Cimatu, the Special Envoy on Middle East Preparedness. But he was not dispatched this time around.

On the other hand, a team led by DFA-OUMWA’s Melvin Almonguera is due to arrive in the Tunisian border at 5 p.m. (Manila time) on Thursday to also set up a Command Post which will assist Filipinos exiting from the capital city Tripoli and environs. The Tunisian government has approved landing rights for aircraft chartered to fly out OFWs and visa upon arrival, the DFA noted.

Aside from availing of the Philippine government’s repatriation plan, OFWs are encouraged to go for the repatriation program of their respective employers, if any, DFA Undersecretary Esteban Conejos has said. The DFA said OFW employers, some of them big companies, are encouraged to commence repatriation efforts in tandem with the embassy.

The Philippine embassy in Tripoli has activated its designated relocation sites — the Philippine School and the St. Francis Catholic Church in Tripoli and the two Philippine Schools in Benghazi in the capital and Benghazi — for the Filipinos.

The repatriates from Tripoli will proceed to Tunis in Tunisia while those from Benghazi and Al Baida will proceed to Alexandria in Egypt by land. From there, they will catch flights to Manila. According to Conejos, foreigners — particularly those from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations — would be accommodated in such flights if there are extra seats. “But the priority remains the Filipinos,’ he stressed. (PNA)

DCT/GJB

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