OFWs hesitate to leave strife-torn Libya due to salary mess: envoy

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 02 2019 11:51 AM | Updated as of May 02 2019 12:06 PM

Libyan National Army (LNA) members head out of Benghazi to reinforce troops advancing towards Tripoli, in Benghazi, Libya, April 7, 2019. Esam Omran Al-Fetori, Reuters

MANILA -- Salary delays and restrictions on remittances are holding back some Filipinos from leaving Libya, an envoy said Thursday, as troops loyal to the UN-recognized government fend off an assault on the capital. 

At least 345 people have been killed and 1,652 wounded so far as men loyal to the Government of National Accord (GNA) tried to take ground from forces of commander Khalifa Haftar, who launched an offensive on Tripoli on April 4, said the World Health Organization. 

Two Filipinos were among the wounded but only 40 have availed of the government's repatriation program, Ambassador Elmer Cato said. 

"Nagsusuweldo sila (OFWs) pero dahil may mga restrictions sa remittance hindi nila naipapadala iyung kanilang mga pera. Marami-rami ang nagsasabing gusto nilang umuwi pero uuwi lang sila 'pag nabayaran na sila," he told radio DZMM. 

(Filipinos are getting paid, but because there are restrictions on remittances, they have not been able to send their money. Many are saying that they want to go home but they will only do so once they are paid.) 

Philippine officials will eventually raise the issue to Libyan officials, said Cato. 

Watch more in iWant or TFC.tv

Manila's foreign affairs department on Wednesday raised the alert level 4 over Tripoli and nearby areas, which calls for the mandatory evacuation of Filipinos there.

Officials, however, "cannot force those who do not want to go," said Cato.

"Nakaka-frustrate din because despite our efforts to convince them na kailangan umuwi dahil napo-project nating lalala iyung sitwasyon, hindi naman natin mapilit at inexplain nila kung bakit. Iyung mga pamilya nila d'yan ang main reason," he said. 

(It's frustrating because despite our efforts to convince them that the need to go home because we expect the situation to worsen, we cannot force them and they explained why. Their families are the main reason.) 

Cato urged Filipinos to go to the Philippine Embassy, move to the home of friends or stay indoors if the fighting reaches their area. 

A coalition of Tripoli militias and armed groups from western towns have since April 20 been slowly repelling Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army.

Around Espiaa, a village south of the capital that they are fighting to control, the air echoed with the sound of rocket fire and the incessant barrage of gunfire.

Plumes of white and black smoke rose across the horizon, marking out where strikes had set the dry landscape ablaze. 
 
The GNA accuses foreign powers -- the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Egypt among others -- of providing Haftar with military support.

The armed group from Misrata, east of Tripoli, claims to have 700 fighters and took part in the battle that ousted the Islamic State group from the city of Sirte in 2016.

With a report from Agence France-Presse