Erle Frayne D. Argonza
Too many expatriate workers are helping to build the Libyan economy and society to bring it closer to modernity. They comprise over 1/3 of the Libyan population of 6 Million+, and they include thousands of my fellow Filipinos. With the conflict between pro and anti-Kadhafy forces escalating, expats were so badly displaced along the way.
I hope I could have been interviewed by Kadhafy himself before the turmoil started. For I would candidly recommend to him to simply absorb en toto the expatriate workers in Libyan society and let them be a constitutive part of the population there. They have already enriched Libyan life in no small measures, so there’s no reason why they should be treated as foreigners forever.
But Kadhafy and the Arabic Libyans (Berber ethnicity largely) do not have on the agenda such large-scale citizen conversion out of the expats. And now, with the turmoil broiling hot to oust him, Kadhafy may be as blind as ‘three blind mice’ to even notice the expats who are fleeing the conflict.
Filipinos are a bit lucky in that, with just a score of thousands or so of my compatriots working there, the diverse embassies and consulates in the Mediterranean can act together to help them pull out quickly and go back to Manila. That precisely happened to the expat Filipinos, and so to the thousands of British, Chinese, Japanese, French, and other nationalities.
But not so for the Afro expats such as those coming from Ghana and Ethiopia. There are also those thousands coming from Bangla Desh, Pakistan, and other developing countries. They are in a calamity situation and they badly need humanitarian aid to salve their hunger and daily survival problems.
I guess the very employers of the expats were simply unprepared for the contingencies of a war situation. Nobody in the corporate boards of the employers could have foreseen what was to happen in Libya, and so the employers were caught flat-footed by the rapidity of the force majeure. The echelon officials of the employers pulled out all so suddenly, leaving behind many of their personnel.
Libya is too close to Europe which for now is in the best position to rush aid to those displaced expats. Egypt and Tunisia were burnt out by their own turmoil that overthrew their chief execs, so they are sadly unprepared for large-scale contingencies to help out the overflowing thousands of displaced expats.
Now, how far can Europeans share aid and in what form, as well as how far can they assist the expats to get back to their respective countries, remains to be seen. The lackadaisical action from Europe could backlash in due time, with the Afro and 3rd world expats finding every route they can to migrate to Europe instead, and eke out a life there as illegal migrants.
And Europeans better be quick in helping out. For several other Arab states are burning in infernal social turbulence, and they too can see expats as well as their own citizens migrating in huge waves to Europe for greener pasteurs.
[Philippines, 16 March 2011]
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