VALLETTA, Malta- The chartered ship that will repatriate some 1,000 Filipinos from conflict areas in Libya is facing delays returning to Malta.
The ship was initially scheduled to return to Malta on August 12, Tuesday.
But Undersecretary for Migrant Affairs Jesus Yabes told ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau that the arrival of the chartered Maltese Vessel in the port of Valletta will be delayed for two to three days due to the unexpected closure of the port in Benghazi, the vessel’s port of entry and first pick-up point for Filipino evacuees.
‘We have tentative dates but I can not divulge. One thing I can say is that the ship is already on its way to that area and hopefully, we will be able to board our people there safely, without any hitches,’ said Yabes.
He added: ‘They announced that they will close the port of Benghazi.
Sometimes authorities, they know the ship is going to troubled waters, so they try to delay some of the clearances but that has been overcome already.’
From Benghazi, the chartered vessel will sail to Misrata for the second pick-up point. It will then proceed to Malta.
Unlike the 2011 repatriation where Filipino evacuees stayed in Crete Island, Greece for a couple of days to wait for the chartered airplanes to fly the evacuees to Manila, the 2014 repatriation will be port to port.
The chartered aircraft, which is most likely to be Philippine Airlines, will pick- up the evacuees straight from the seaport of Valletta to be flown to Manila.
Yabes appealed to the families of overseas Filipino workers to convince their loved ones to take the opportunity to join the chartered ship, especially those who work in conflict areas.
"We are thinking of their lives. Paano pa sila makakapagtrabaho kung patay na sila o baldado na sila? I hope they will join. We are still open to receive them. Handa natinn i-load sila sa barko," said Yabes.
Mass for the safe voyage of chartered ship
On Sunday, the Filipino groups in Malta offered a mass for the safe voyage of the chartered ship and successful repatriation of Filipino evacuees from conflict-ridden areas of Libya.
The mass was celebrated by the only Filipino priest in Malta, Augustinian priest Fr. Aldrin Alvarado, who has also been helping in the repatriation efforts of the Philippine Rapid Response Team, headed by Consul General Leila Lora- Santos of the Philippine Embassy in Rome.
Filipino leaders in Malta have initiated various efforts to also assist in the repatriation of Pinoys.
"Nagbibigay ng simbahan sa kanila ng banal na salita to make them happy at ang mga Pilipino dito, kanya- kanyang dala ng pagkain, pinupuntahan namin, just to put a smile on their face. Kasi sabi nila grabe ang sitwasyon na naranasan nila sa Libya,’ said community organizer John Franco.