By Sami Zaptia.
London, 22 April 2020:
The Deputy Foreign Minister of the internationally recognized Libyan government based in Tripoli, Mahmoud Al-Tilisi, said yesterday that the committee formed to repatriate Libyans stranded abroad as a result of border closures to mitigate the spread of the Coronavirus (Codid-19) had started the repatriation process.
Al-Tilisi explained that after its formation, the committee began its work by reaching out to Libyan consulates and heads of missions and embassies abroad to provide the necessary health care as well as accommodation and subsistence services for stranded citizens.
He said that the work of the committee is divided into two phases. The first phase of this process includes the provision of housing for quarantine and health care and subsistence services. The second phase includes real-time PCR (polymerise chain reaction) detection procedures, as well as quarantine procedures.
Tilisi confirmed that the committee has started the actual process of the quarantine of those stranded in Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey, pointing out that the schedule for the actual return will be 14 days after the end of the quarantine and the assurance of their safety from the coronavirus.
He explained that the return mechanism approved by the committee is by aircraft except for Libyan citizens who left the country using their own cars to the two countries of Tunisia and Egypt.
He pointed out that the number of Libyans stranded abroad was about 15 thousand citizens distributed in 45 European and African countries, adding that the committee is working to collect information on Libyans stuck in other countries to begin their return procedures.
Al-Tilisi explained that the follow-up committee of the stranded has put in place a mechanism for the return of Libyans stranded in the Netherlands and Portugal by assembling them in Spain for their quarantine and testing before returning to Libya. He said that the Libyan state will work to rent planes to repatriate stranded Libyans in countries where Libyan aircraft do not have a permit to enter airspace.
It worth bearing in mind that there have been complaints from Libyans stranded abroad that some Libyan embassies have been slow in responding to their needs, including for enquiries for updated information. There have also been complaints that the quarantine procedure is quite draconian.
However, the main complain has been the time it has taken the Libyan authorities to agree on a policy and process for repatriation. Many stranded abroad had wanted to return before the fasting month of Ramadan which starts this Friday.
Much of the delay was caused by indecision within the Tripoli government as to how best to move forward. Initially, it was decided it was cheaper to repatriate the stranded and quarantine them in Libya. However, in view of the fact that some earlier returnees had escaped from quarantine, it was decided that from a health safety point of view, it was better to quarantine the stranded abroad.
As it is, the current policy announced by the Libyan authorities means that the stranded will miss at least half of Ramadan quarantined in hotels abroad.