PHL diplomat in Libya urges Filipinos still there to leave as fighting intensifies

Elmer Cato, the Philippine diplomat in Libya, along with other members of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) team sent to convince Filipinos in Libya to agree to repatriation, talks to four Filipino students who were among the seven Filipinos who were first repatriated back to the Philippines. The DFA has been urging Filipinos still staying in Libya to leave the war-ravaged country as intensified fighting in the area has killed at least 200 people. (Photo from tweet of DFA’s Elmer Cato)


(Eagle News) – An official of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) who is in Libya to help repatriate Filipinos there appealed to his countrymen to accept the Philippine government’s offer of repatriation and leave Tripoli as their lives are in danger due to intensified fighting there.

Elmer Cato, the Philippine diplomatic representative in Libya, had been repeatedly telling Filipinos in Tripoli to leave the area and go back to the Philippines.

But he said that many Filipinos there still refused to leave.

On Wednesday, only seven Filipinos agreed to be repatriated.

Among them were four Filipino students evacuated on Wednesday, who departed Tunis for Manila.

They were repatriated by a DFA team stationed in Tunisia.

“Filipinos here in Tripoli have been telling us they will not leave even if fighting reaches the capital,” Cato said in a tweet.

“We are not giving up. Everyday, we call to check on our kababayan in high-risk areas and tell them we are ready to bring them home,” he said.

Cato said that on Tuesday, one Filipino was already wounded in a rocket attack on a neighborhood in Tripoli where at least 200 Filipinos were residing.

The following day, Wednesday, mortars struck a hospital where there were 18 Filipinos. This was in the outskirts where there was heavy fighting.

There were also six Filipinos who were trapped on Friday in Tripoli during intense fighting in the area.

Cato said that so far, they had only received 22 requests for repatriation, including the seven whom they had already repatriated to Manila Wednesday.

He said many Filipinos in Libya were still undecided regarding the DFA’s offer of repatriation.

-Tales of heroism-

But there were also tales of heroism among Filipinos in Libya.

Cato recalled how “Fipino nurses again rose to the occasion when they attended to the many casualties” of a recent deadly rocket barrage in Tripoli when the victims of the attacks were brought to the Oil Clinic near Abu Salim.

Cato and the DFA team also came to get a Filipino “who narrowly survived the most recent barrage of rockets that struck Tripoli”.

The Filipino identified as Rolando Torres had witnessed previous fighting in Libya but he said that this time the rocket barrage “was different.”

“He now wants to go home,” Cato said in a recent tweet.

Cato said that 15 Filipino nurses at a hospital south of Tripoli that was recently struck by rockets were all safe. He said that the DFA team “could not contact them for a few hours” but were later assured by the hospital owner that they would be moved to a safe location.

Because of the increasing intensity in fighting in Libya, Cato is appealing to the families of the Filipinos still staying in Libya to convince their loved ones to agree to be repatriated back to the country.

-More than 200 killed in renewed fighting in Libya-

The renewed fighting in Libya had so far killed more than 200 people and left more than 900 wounded, according to the World Health Organization on Thursday.

The UN said Friday it had evacuated 163 refugees from Libya to neighboring Niger, but more than 3,000 others were still trapped in detention centers affected by clashes.

The move marked the first evacuation of refugees and migrants out of Libya since fighting escalated in Tripoli two weeks ago, the UN refugee agency said.

“Given the situation in Libya, humanitarian evacuations are a lifeline for detained refugees whose lives are in jeopardy in Libya,” UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi said in a statement.

The operation came as fierce fighting continued between forces loyal to strongman Khalifa Haftar and those backing the internationally recognised Government of National Accord (GNA).

(with a report from Agence France Presse)