The Department of Labor and Employment is ready to evacuate Filipinos in Libya should the Department of Foreign Affairs raise the alert level from Three to Four in that country due to continuous fighting.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said that “as soon as the DFA raise the alert level to four, then we will again come up with a solution. This time, imposing a forced evacuation or repatriation of our workers in Libya.”
The DOLE chief said that at present, repatriation of overseas Filipino workers from the Middle Eastern country is voluntary.
The DFA said that there are over 3,500 Filipinos in Libya.
Under Alert Level 4, all Filipinos in Libya will be forced to evacuate and those with valid employment contracts who are currently on vacation in the Philippines will not be allowed to return.
Rapid response teams have been placed by the DFA in Tripoli to assist in the evacuation of the thousands Filipinos in the Libyan capital.
“We are also preparing a voluntary repatriation program. That means that those who want to come home, we will be helping them,” said Bello.
Bello said that aside from free airfare, there will be livelihood and financial assistance for the returning Filipino workers.
On Monday, the DFA raised Alert Level 3 in Libya and has “urged Filipinos in Tripoli and nearby areas to consider getting themselves and their dependents repatriated to avoid getting caught in the middle of ongoing clashes between rival factions.”
Meanwhile, as military tension escalates in the Libyan capital of Tripoli, reelectionist Senator Nancy Binay called on government agencies to activate emergency hotlines where families of OFWs can call and be updated on the status of their relatives in Libya.
Binay cited the need for an inter-agency team—composed of the DFA, DOLE, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and representatives from employment agencies—so that relatives of the OFWs in the Philippines can be appraised of the situation and the repatriation plans of the government.
Binay said that communication is very vital, especially for the OFWs’ loved ones for their peace of mind.
Binay said the government, with assistance from recruitment agencies which were responsible for deploying the OFWs in Libya, can put up hotlines and social media channels for easier and faster communication.
“DFA can set up an online info-center which will consolidate all Libya-related information and have it regularly updated,” she said.
Binay added that concerned recruitment agencies should also help in providing a list to the DFA and in contacting the migrants working in various facilities while communication has not yet been shut off.
Binay wanted to know if agencies have provided insurance coverage for their workers, noting that it is their responsibility to give the DFA pertinent information on OFWs including the company they’re working with, their contact number/s, addresses, email addresses, etc.
With the closure of the Mitiga Airport, the senator likewise urged manpower agencies to start planning for contingencies, including the possible evacuation of the OFWs. She also called on the families of OFWs to inform DFA on the whereabouts of their loved ones in Libya, especially those who are undocumented workers.
“Documented man o di-rehistrado, tulungan din po natin ang ating mga kababayan sa Libya, at isama natin sila sa contingency plans,” Binay said.
There are more than 1,000 registered Filipinos in Libya, but about 90% of foreign/migrant workers in the country do not have proper travel documents, and seldom receive consular support.
Meanwhile, embassy officials has urged Filipinos in Tripoli and nearby areas within a 100-kilometer radius of the capital to consider voluntary repatriation.