8,000 out on Libya borders

348 arrive on IOM-arranged flight, 36 others fly in on their own
Around 8,000 Bangladeshis who could get evacuated troubled Libya are now languishing at the Egyptian and Tunisian borders with little food and water coupled with extreme night chill, only to get back home.
The aggrieved evacuees said the Bangladesh government has not done enough for them and that they are now feeling “abandoned” as many of them have no travel documents.
Meanwhile, 33 Bangladeshi engineers stranded in Marsa Brega urged the government to make arrangement so that they can get aboard on an Indian ship likely to arrive at Brega port tomorrow.
“Till Wednesday, there were no bombings or shootings here but clashes between rebels and Gaddafi forces has started today,” said two of the engineers to The Daily Star, adding that this made them to stay inside their company premises.
“I reached the Egyptian border Saturday and went without food until I got on a flight and begged some water from the Europeans,” said Sazedul Hossain, who went to Benghazi, Libya to work for Al Maruf Construction Company nine months ago.
Sazedul and 35 of his colleagues came home yesterday morning by a chartered flight of International Organisation for Migration (IOM).
A total of 348 Bangladeshi nationals returned home from Libya yesterday through IOM chartered flights while 36 on other arrangements.
Till yesterday, 677 Bangladeshis returned home from Libya following the unrest in the country. Of them, 558 came on IOM chartered flights, 115 with the support from their employers and four on their own arrangement.
Another 174 Bangladeshis are returning today from Egypt by an IOM chartered flight at 10:30 in the morning. IOM is also facilitating return of seven persons by Etihad Airlines at 4:00am and five persons by Gulf Air at 4:40am.
Tomorrow, between 4:00 and 4:40am 40 more Bangladeshis are expected to return by Gulf Air while 174 others by a chartered flight.
Supported and coordinated by IOM, more flights are likely in the next few days.
IOM officials yesterday said this is an emergency situation and everybody is doing as much as possible.
Out of around 60,000 expatriate Bangladeshis in Libya, as many as 15,000 have either fled the escalating chaos in the oil-rich country or are on the move to reach home by air, said a top official of the United Nation’s migration agency.
Citing references of IOM field workers, Rabab Fatima, regional representative for South Asia, yesterday said around 8,000 Bangladeshi migrant workers are stranded at the Egyptian and Tunisian borders.
Meanwhile, Expatriates’ Welfare Secretary Zafar Ahmed Khan said, “We are discouraging Bangladeshis to come from Libya. They are poor workers and we fear that they might lose everything by doing so.”
“If they are not in direct danger, we advise them to stay where they are,” he told the AFP.
The Bangladeshis stranded in the no man’s land between Libya and Tunisia are in a dire situation, requiring food, water and shelter,” said IOM spokesperson Jemini Pandya.
“They are in the desert and the weather in the last few days has been windy with the nights freezing,” she added.
“On the Egyptian borders as well, shelter, water and sanitation have become the major issues,” said Jemini through an email from Geneva when asked about the situation of Bangladeshis.
IOM is providing food rations and water every day to the stranded migrants and is awaiting a go-ahead to supply tents and blankets for them from the military authorities there.
“We are also looking to improve the sanitation facilities there,” said Pandya.
Around 30,000 Bangladeshis workers are still in Libya even though the UN High Commission for Refugees has called for a mass evacuation.
“Hundreds of Bangladeshis are in queues at the borders. They do not have any food, money or embassy officials to seek help from,” said Hiron Mia, an expatriate who came home yesterday empty pocket.
The government is providing Tk 1,000 as travel expense and arranged a special shuttle service from Shahjalal International Airport to the different places for the repatriates from Libya.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Dipu Moni met IOM Director William Lacy Swing and ICRC President Yves Daccord on the sidelines of High Level Segment of the UN Human Rights Council.
The foreign minister stressed that the safety and security of the Bangladesh nationals in Libya is of the utmost priority to the government.
She sought all possible assistance from ICRC, including food, shelter and medical attention for the Bangladeshi nationals stranded in Libya and its border.


Courtesy of The Daily Star

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