Libya: nuns and priests remain to help stranded migrants

St Francis Church, Tripoli

St Francis Church, Tripoli

More than 500 migrantsgathered at Tripoli airport today when they heard the news that a plane to take a group of 54 Eritreans to Italy.

"There was nothing we could do except help them get back to where they had come from", Maltese Father Daniel Farrugia, vicar general of the diocese and parish priest of  St Francis of Assisi Church, in Tripoli, said.

“I think there are at least 1,500 Eritreans in the city, many of whom were rejected in the Mediterranean en route to Italy and ended up in Libya”,  Fr Farrugia said. "They are “people with nothing, struggling to survive, depending solely on a strong solidarity within the community”.

From Dahra, a neighbourhood of Tripoli around 20 minutes from the Green Square – where Gaddaffi held his last speech inciting his supporters to resist – Fr Daniel spoke of a city trying to return to normality. He said: “I took a ride around this morning and the banks are filled with people wanting to deposit the 500 dinars given by the government, stores are open and also offices until 2pm.  Then the shutters closed and the city fell in a strange silence and calm. For the past two days we haven't herd any gunfire."

The same apparent calm was described by MISNA sources in Bengasi, which has fallen under the control of the 'pro-democracy front'.

The poorest people are paying the highest price. While the  foreign directors and managers of construction companies working in the desert  managed to leave the country in the first days of the crisis,  "thousands of foreign workers are trapped waiting for a means to return home” a local source said.  "They are Egyptians, Tunisians, Asians, often with little money and insufficient basic necessities. In the race to escape, they were left last by those who should have guaranteed their safety."

In a statement, the Apostolic Nunciature stressed that nuns and priests are continuing to serve the population in both Tripoli and Bengasi.  They are seeing large numbers of people who are not on government lists for evacuation and rapidly becoming destititute.

Source: MISNA

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