Chaos reigns at the Tripoli airport as people—including thousands of migrant workers from sub-Saharan Africa and Asia—try to flee Libya. At least 26 nations are seeking to get their citizens out safely. Evacuees describes ‘mass hysteria’ at the airport where as many as 10,000 people attempted—are fighting, as the Guardian says—to get out.
A plane chartered by the oil company BP brought 78 people to Gatwick Airport in England on Thursday. Another aircraft was stuck in England and only got to Tripoli early Thursday morning. It picked up 132 people and flew to Malta, where 51 more boarded the plane. Six people who made it to the UK are interviewed by the BBC and describe harrowing scenes from the Tripoli airport. Ewan Black, an IT support worker for an oil company, describes losing his luggage and ‘”literally bodies climbing over bodies to get to the door.”‘ Bryan Richards, an oil worker, says:
“This was manic. Your worst nightmare of pop concerts and football hooligans all mixed into one. It was unbelievable.
If you can imagine an area the size of the Wembley pitch full of people and luggage, all trying to move in one direction but not going anywhere. And no-one else can move either.
It was manic, unbelievably manic, mayhem. No sanitation. Nothing to eat. People have been there for days.”
In Benghazi, a British navy frigate with 200 people, 68 of them British, was delayed due to bad weather. People are taking whatever means they can, from Turkish ferries to a US ferry in Tripoli, to leave. The US ferry, with 285 passengers on board (167 of them Americans including 40 members of the US Embassy staff) has been stranded in the harbor in Tripoli due to eight-meter swells. Passengers are unable to leave the boat and being given food and water.
The US State Department estimates that about 6,000 Americans, most holding dual citizenship, were in Libya when the uprising against Muammar Qaddafi began.
But as the New York Times reports, getting out of Libya is even more challenging for migrant workers, many of whom simply do not have the funds to get back home:
Jemini Pandya, a spokeswoman for the International Organization for Migration, said at least 30,000 people, mainly Tunisian and Egyptian migrant workers, fled violence in Libya from Monday to Wednesday.
Drawn by jobs in Libya’s booming construction industry and rich oil fields, as many as 1.5 million migrants were working in Libya when the violence began, according to Ms. Pandya’s group.
Officials in Italy, France, Spain, Greece, Malta and Cyprus have asked the European Union for special funds to deal with an anticipated mass influx of refugees. Italy and Greece, as the New York Times says, are the most likely points of destination for many of the refugees; both countries have huge debt and economic crises that render them something less than able to handle what Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa of Italy has referred to as migrations ‘”on a biblical scale.”‘
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Photo: screenshot of the exodus to leave Libra via TelLieVision1's channel.
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