By Libya Herald staff.
Cairo, 14 August 2014:
Libyan Airlines office in Cairo is coordinating with the Libyan Embassy in the Egyptian capital and . . .[restrict]EgyptAir to help Libyans stranded in the country return home. The airline also has a waiting list of hundreds of Egyptians who want to return to work in Libya.
In past days there have been chaotic scenes outside the airline’s offices with Libyans desperate to get back. Many have been running out of money in Egypt and cannot afford to stay.
A Crisis Management Team has been put into place to coordinate efforts to ensure that all Libyans who want to return are able to return. The Libya Herald spoke with Libyan Airlines District Manager for Egypt Mohamed H. Eljareh about the airline’s current flight schedule and the situation for those wanting to return.
Aljareh said the airline currently has flights every Wednesday from Cairo to Misrata. The airline is flying four to five times per week to Tripoli’s Mitiga and four times a week to Labraq in the east. Because of the constantly changing situation in Libya, the weekly schedule for those flights is set at the beginning of each week. According to Eljareh, the airline is also looking to add flights to Tobruk, where the House of Representatives is meeting.
He said that Libyan Airlines has no concerns about flying into Mitiga Airport, adding that the airport was secure. Immigration services were working well there and able to process foreign passports. They had even, he said, already spotted a few forged visas held by some Egyptians who had recently entered the country through Mitiga.
Eljareh said that all Egypt to Libya flights were full and there was a waiting list. Most of the Libyan passengers, according to Eljareh, had come to Egypt for a vacation during the Ramadan holiday. “Libyans like to celebrate Ramadan in Egypt because there is such a festive spirit here during the holiday,” he stated, adding that when the clashes in Tripoli broke out during the middle of the month many Libyans found themselves stranded in Egypt.
He also said that there were many Egyptians trying to return to their jobs in Libya. “The Egyptian Foreign Ministry is telling Egyptians to leave Libya, and at the same time we are seeing all of these Egyptians trying to return to Libya. They like to work there,” Eljareh said. He added that there were many safe areas of Libya, towns where there were no armed clashes.
This reporter visited the airline office on three different days and can attest to the fact that it was overflowing with passengers trying to get flights back to Libya. In the midst of an office packed with frustrated, shouting and pushing passengers, the airline’s staff — from those working the computers at the counter to the top level management — were handling the tense situation with patience and graciousness, trying their best to respond to each customer’s need. The staff never seemed to take a break as they quietly and calmly dealt with people’s desperate pleas to help them get on a flight.
When asked why he would want to go to Libya at this time, one Egyptian in the airlines’ office told the Libya Herald, “My relatives are there and they told me to come back. The work is good there.” He said that he lived in Abu Sleem, an area that has seen heavy fighting. “I am not afraid,” he said. “I am sure I will be okay.”
Another Egyptian worker in the office said he lived near Camp 27, which has recently changed hands more than once in recent clashes. When asked if he was afraid of the potential risks, he said, “It is in God’s hands. But I must go back to work.”
The Libyan Embassy and the Crisis Management Team is also working with EgyptAir to help Libyans who had tickets on its airline. EgyptAir is not currently flying into Libya. They are offering to fly passengers to Tunis and then transport them to Tripoli.
For those who do not want that option, Libyan Airlines is honouring EgyptAir tickets. The Embassy is covering the cost of accommodations for Libyan passengers until they can get seats on Libyan Airlines flights.