Four Filipino workers were abducted by unidentified gunmen in an oil field in Central Libya on March 6, bringing the total number of kidnapped Filipinos there to seven, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed on Monday.
The four Filipinos were among the foreigners–two Bangladeshi, one Ghanan, one Czech and one Austrian–abducted from the Al Ghani oil field after it was attacked by “heavily armed men” on March 6, Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose said in a news briefing.
No armed group has claimed responsibility for the abduction and no ransom demands have been made.
The Filipinos are working for VAOS Oil Services, an Austrian-owned film that is headquartered in Tripoli.
According to Jose, there are about 52 Filipinos employed by the company, but they were earlier evacuated from the oil field and are not in Tripoli.
“The [Philippine] Embassy [in Tripoli]has stepped up coordination with VAOS officials and Libyan authorities to locate the abducted Filipinos . . . to work for their safe and immediate release,” he said.
Embassy officials also talked with 52 VAOS employees evacuated to Tripoli and 36 of them wish to be repatriated to the Philippines “immediately.”
“We expect more to sign up in the coming days,” Jose said.
“The embassy and the company are also working closely to facilitate immediate repatriation of the remaining Filipinos,” he added.
This latest abduction brings the total number of Filipinos in the hands of possible armed groups to seven, but the whereabouts of the three Filipinos earlier reported to have been seized from Mabrouk Oil Field on February 3 remained unknown.
“These cases underscore the escalating threat to the safety and security of Filipino workers in Libyan oil fields that have been targeted by armed groups in recent weeks,” Jose said.
“In view of this worsening situation, we appeal once again to the estimated 4,000 Filipinos who are still in Libya to get in touch with the embassy and avail themselves of the government’s mandatoray repatriation program,” he added.
Crisis alert level four has been raised in Libya since the civil unrest started there last year, but Jose said OFWs do not want to return to the Philippines for “economic reasons” because “work here is not commensurate with [the]salary.”