By Sami Zaptia.
London, 8 May 2020:
Libya’s Attorney General’s Office is investigating the Libyan Consulate in Istanbul for allowing 9 members of the same family to board a repatriation flight to Libya – without having undergone the prescribed testing and quarantine procedure.
The family were let on board a flight bound for Misrata airport on 5 May on compassionate grounds in order to attend the funeral of their son who had reportedly died in the fighting against Hafter.
Moreover, according to leaked internal letters from Libya’s Istanbul Consulate, the Attorney General’s Office and the Administrative Control Authority (ACA) – all seen by Libya Herald – the General Consul in Istanbul who had allowed them on board claimed he was acting on instructions (wasta!) from the head of the High State Council, Khaled Mishri.
The family were stopped at Misrata airport and reported to the Anti-Coronavirus Committee which in turn set off a flurry of letters and investigations leading to the Attorney General’s Office to launch its investigation.
Moreover, Libya Herald has seen documents revealing that the next day’s flight was also cancelled in view of the fact that some of the passengers on board had clearance certificates issued by Libya’s Istanbul Consul General. The documents also reveal that he has been recalled to Tripoli for investigation by the Attorney General’s Office.
It will be recalled that the Libyan authorities had put in place precise procedures for the repatriation of its citizens stranded abroad which prescribe two PCR (polymerise chain reaction) tests for every citizen either side of a tight 14 day quarantine in a hotel nominated by the local Libyan embassy/consulate. Those who do not pass the PCR tests are not allowed home.
As of Tuesday (5 May) two flights had been scheduled to repatriate the first batch of Libyans stranded in Istanbul having successfully completed their quarantine and testing procedures. Other flights were to be scheduled from Tunis, Cairo and Spain.
Ironically, last Sunday, the head of Libya’s National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), Bader Al-din al-Najar, had assured Libyan citizens that no fellow citizen currently stranded abroad will be allowed to return to Libya until they had undergone preventive measures taken by the state and it was certain that they were free of the Coronavirus.
His assurance came in reaction to fears being widely expressed by the Libyan public that having kept infections to a minimum, and having endured 6pm to 6am curfews, a sudden flood of repatriations might scupper all the good work done so far. The fear was also partly based on the news that some of those repatriated in March / April had escaped quarantine procedures.
On 12 April Libya’s Tripoli based Foreign Ministry had announced detailed plans for the repatriation of stranded citizens. On 21 April the Committee formed to conduct the repatriation had announced that the screening and quarantine process had started.
Najar had pointed out that no Libyan citizen will return until after passing the procedures taken from quarantine for 14 days, and to make sure that they are completely free of Coronavirus through PCR screening. Some of those stranded in Istanbul had indeed confirmed these procedures to Libya Herald.
He also revealed that the NCDC was preparing a guide for airlines on how to deal in terms of preventive steps with citizens stranded during their transfer to Libya and that there is coordination between Libya’s Ministry of Transport and the NCDC in the transportation of citizens stranded abroad.
Najar said that the NCDC has prepared monitoring forms to follow-up on the health status of passengers, which will need to be filled-in by returnees inside the aircraft and then handed over to the international health control offices, which will deliver them to the NCDC and through which all travellers will be followed up.