Turkish workers evacuate Libya after clashes

Turkish workers evacuate Libya after clashes

Turkish workers evacuate Libya after clashes

DHA photo

Some 396 Turkish workers employed by a Turkish firm in Libya returned to Istanbul late on Sept. 29, amid an escalation in inter-tribal clashes in the country. One worker died while waiting in the airport after suffering a heart attack.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry last week decided to repatriate the workers, most of whom were employed by construction firm ENKA, due to the deteriorating security situation in Libya.

They arrived in Istanbul on the night of Sept. 29 on a Turkish Airlines flight from Misrata, a coastal city in the northwest of the country. The workers had been moved to several places in Libya before their evacuation and had to wait for a week at Ghat Airport in poor conditions.

The man who suffered a heart attack at the airport has been identified as İsmet Yalçın. His body was flown to Istanbul, to then be taken for burial in İzmir.

The workers have complained about the failure to take an earlier decision for evacuation, and about the poor security conditions during their evacuation.

Abdullah Bilgiç, one of the workers, said ENKA only decided to evacuate them once the clashes had reached Obani, where their construction site was located. “The company made mistakes. We were only able to reach the [Turkish] state at the very last minute. The plane was probably sent by our Foreign Ministry,” said Bilgiç, adding that conditions were primitive as they awaited evacuation.

“We slept on stone in the airport [in Libya]. One of our friends died after having a heart attack. There was nothing there to help him, neither a first aid bag nor a health team,” he said, adding that no Turkish workers had been left behind.

Ahmet Kılınç, another worker, said security while they travelled in Libya was also poor. “After leaving the site, we traveled in a bus for seven hours. But security was very poor. We had one guard and two armed men in the bus while heading to Ghat Airport,” Kılınç said.

ENKA’s manager, İsa Özinan, said his firm had done all it could to evacuate its workers, stressing that two tribes in Libya had started to fight over their share of oil near the construction sites two weeks ago.

“We decided to evacuate the region upon receiving news of conflict and then closed the construction site. We rushed to leave and arrived by bus from the airport. But our evacuation was postponed and we had to stay at the airport or hotels in Misrata for nearly a week,” Özinan said.

Libya has been dogged by political instability since Muammar Gaddafi was deposed and killed in 2011.

Rival militias have frequently clashed in Libya’s main cities, including capital Tripoli and Benghazi, while the central government has struggled to maintain order.

Political divisions have resulted in two rival seats of government, each with their own set of institutions.