766 Filipinos home from Libya

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A total of 766 Filipinos arrived in Manila over the weekend after they were repatriated from strife-torn Libya through a Philippine-chartered ship, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Sunday.

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The DFA added that the ship was the last one chartered to ferry Filipinos from Libya.

Charles Jose, Foreign Affairs spokesman, said in a text message that the Filipino workers returned on late Saturday and early Sunday.

Their arrival brought to 2,727 the total number of Filipinos repatriated from Libya at the Philippine government’s expense.

Hundreds of other Filipino workers have been also been evacuated by their employers.

“Our mission is to ensure the safety of Filipinos who are caught in dangerous situations abroad. We remain committed to helping our nationals in Libya in any way we can,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said in a statement.

Aside from the ship that picked up the Filipinos, as well as 15 other nationalities, from Benghazi and Misrata, two Philippine Airlines (PAL) flights were also chartered to bring them to Manila from Malta, where the ship was docked.

The first flight, PR 9009, flew home 419 Filipinos and arrived at 10 p.m. on Saturday evening while the second flight, PR 9007, brought home 347 Filipinos onboard, arriving at 3:30 a.m. on Sunday.

Representatives from the Foreign Affairs department and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) briefed the repatriated workers upon arrival and provided them with fares and transportation assistance to their hometowns or provinces.

The DFA declared crisis alert level 3 (voluntary repatriation) in Libya on May 29 because of threat of a civil war there in wake of continuous fighting between two powerful militia groups that Libya’s weak military could not control.

It then raised alert level 4 (mandatory repatriation) on July 20 after a Filipino worker was beheaded in Benghazi because he was a Christian.

An estimated 10,000 other Filipinos have refused to be repatriated.

If they changed their mind, the DFA said they will be using land routes to the reopened Tunisian border to evacuate the Filipinos from Libya.

The Philippine government spent some P130 million for chartering the ship and the PAL planes to bring the Filipinos home.

OWWA chief Rebecca Calzado also on Sunday said the returnees qualify for the agency’s reintegration program, livelihood assistance, scholarships, training and job and Tesda referrals.

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