Thousands of South Asians prepare to flee Libya

Image caption,
Most Bangladeshis in Libya work in construction

Tens of thousands of South Asian workers in Libya are preparing to flee the country as clashes continue between protesters and the security forces.

Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Dipu Moni told the BBC that plans have been made to evacuate 50,000 Bangladeshis in Libya "if the necessity arises".

The Indian, Pakistani and Nepalese governments say that they, too are closely monitoring the situation.

The overwhelming majority of South Asians in Libya work as labourers.

An official for the Indian foreign ministry said on Monday that the Indian embassy in Tripoli has set up a round-the-clock control room, which can be contacted for information and assistance. There are 18,000 Indians in Libya.

The Pakistani embassy in Libya says there are about 18,000 Pakistanis in the country, but there are no concrete plans to evacuate them at present.

Nepalese embassy officials say that there about 2,000 Nepalis in Libya - and that 600 of them in the city of Darnah have sought immediate repatriation.

The embassy says that it is trying to make arrangements to bring them all home - if that is necessary - but its plans are being hampered by "resource constraints".

House arrest

The Bangladeshi foreign ministry says that most of its expatriates in Libya work for foreign construction firms.

"We are in touch with our mission in Tripoli and we are also in touch with international organisations who could help us evacuate our people if the necessity arises… we are observing the situation… if there is the need we will definitely evacuate them… and we are preparing for it," Ms Moni said.

"To begin with, we are planning to move them to safer places and if there is the necessity, we will evacuate them from the country if we have to.

"As a government, we have to take steps to ensure our people there are safe."

A Bangladeshi among a group of workers for a South Korean company in the town of Darnah told the BBC that they had been kept under house arrest by armed people, "presumably anti-government protesters".

"There are around 2,000 people working in this unit, including people from Nepal, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines. But we have been kept in buildings for the last three days. There is no drinking water here. We are in a terrible situation," the worker, Shafiyuddin Biswas, told BBC Bengali on Monday.

Meanwhile the Libyan ambassador to Bangladesh, Ahmed H Elimam, is reported to have resigned. Earlier, his counterpart in India, Ali al-Essawi, also resigned in protest over "violence against the Libyan people".

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