Hapless Lankan workers flee Libya

By Leon Berenger

The ongoing turmoil in Libya has forced Sri Lankans in that country to flee in different directions.
Nearly 275 of them in the capital Tripoli have taken refuge in the Sri Lanka Embassy whilst 37 others have found their way into Greece, External Affairs Ministry officials said yesterday.

This was whilst the Ministry made hurried preparations to evacuate Sri Lankans trapped in the violent public uprising against Libyan ruler Moammar Gadaffi. The officials said no Sri Lankans have been hurt so far in the violent incidents.

In view of communication problems, the EAM is working through the Sri Lanka Embassy in Rome to make arrangements to provide safe passage to Sri Lankan workers trapped there. The task is being handled by the Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau.

Foreign Employment Bureau Chairman Kingsley Ranawaka said yesterday that talks were also under way with a private airline to evacuate Sri Lankans. The move will mean the government would have to obtain clearance to land at the international airport in Tripoli. Neighbouring India has just been given approval for two flights per day to fly home some 18,000 nationals from Libya. The Indian government said its nationals in Libya would not have to pay for these flights.

Ranawaka said there were more than 800 Sri Lankans employed in Libya. Besides domestic workers, there were doctors and engineers too, he added. Sri Lanka’s Ambassador in Rome, Hemantha Warnakulasuriya, who is co-ordinating the evacuation operation with the envoy in Tripoli, Sudantha Ganegamaarachchi told the Sunday Times there were reports that some protestors were targeting migrant workers. Some have been taken hostage. However, no Sri Lankan has been affected.

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