DFA teams rescue OFW in Libya

Thousands flee clashes between forces of strongman Khalifa Haftar and the UN-backed unity government. (AFP)

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has deployed two augmentation teams to Libya to beef up the Philippine Embassy’s operations as fighting near Tripoli intensified and reportedly killed 121 people and wounded more than 500 individuals.

The first team led by Executive Director Enrico Fos of the Office of Migrant Workers Affairs arrived in Tunis on Saturday where it will be stationed to assist Filipinos that the Embassy will be evacuating from Tripoli.

Meanwhile, the second team led by Director Iric Arribas will be arriving in Tripoli on Sunday to assist the Filipinos in the capital should the situation require mass evacuation of OFW.

“We still have not declared Level IV. The deployment of the augmentation teams is in anticipation of a possible surge in the number of Filipinos who may want to avail themselves of the repatriation program once fighting enters the capital itself,” Chargé d’Affaires Elmer Cato said in a text message.

According to the envoy, fighting is still confined to the capital’s outskirts as of Saturday, noting that the combatants have been fielding heavy ground-based weapons as well as aerial bombardment.

To date, the Embassy said it has already received 19 requests for repatriation.

While the conflict has yet to enter Tripoli, Cato said the Embassy remains proactive and aggressive in calling upon Filipinos in the area to “seriously consider” the government’s repatriation offer while it still can.

Places affected by the conflict include Sawani, Azizia, Qasr Ben Ghashir, Khallet Forjan, Ain Zara and Wadi Al-Rabee.

Based from the United Nation’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) data, significant numbers of civilians remain stuck in these areas and are unable to move to comparatively safer areas.

It is situational report dated April 12 said low evacuation rates could be attributed to ongoing clashes, and reports of the indiscriminate and deliberate targeting of ambulance vehicles.

Fighting near Tripoli has killed 121 people and wounded 561 since strongman Khalifa Haftar launched an offensive earlier this month to take the Libyan capital, the World Health Organization said Sunday.
WHO’s Libya account said on Twitter the organisation was sending medical supplies and more staff to Tripoli, and denounced “repeated attacks on health care workers, vehicles” during the fighting which erupted on April 4.
Haftar’s forces, which control swathes of the country’s east, have defied international calls to halt their battle against fighters loyal to the UN-backed Government of National Accord based in Tripoli.
The United Nations’ office for humanitarian affairs said more than 13,500 people had been displaced by the clashes, while more than 900 residents are living in shelters.
“Three medical personnel have been killed and five ambulances have been incapacitated by shrapnel,” OCHA said in a Saturday statement.
As well as fighting on the ground, the two sides have launched daily air raids and accuse each other of targeting civilians.
The north African country has been in turmoil since the NATO-backed overthrow of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011, which has led to the creation of a bewildering array of militias all seeking to take control.
Haftar backs a rival administration based in eastern Libya that refuses to recognise the UN-backed unity government led by Fayez al-Sarraj.
With AFP