Endgame in Libya could help immigrant workers

African migrants wait to board buses after disembarking a boat carrying 800 migrants and civilian casualties from the besieged Libyan city Misrata.

Stacey Vanek-Smith: Aid agencies have expressed concerns about safety and living conditions in Tripoli. Foreign workers especially have been a target of violence throughout the conflict. Now those same foreigners may be relied on to help rebuild the country. But first, they'll have to come back.

Reporter Christopher Werth has more.


Christopher Werth: Libya has had to rely on immigrants to help build and run its billion-dollar oil sector. And those migrant workers, from Asia, the Middle East, and other parts of Africa, made headlines fleeing en masse across the Tunisian border, or by boat to Europe since the conflict erupted.

The International Organization for Migration says out of 2.5 million foreign workers that were in Libya, around 660,000 have left in the past six months. Thousands have remained in Tripoli, either to protect business interests, or in the hopes of collecting unpaid wages, a big problem for migrants caught up in the fighting.

Sybella Wilkes is with the UN's refugee organization. She says now that the Gaddafi regime has collapsed, they're not likely to want to evacuate.

Sybella Wilkes: Those that have stayed have really stayed through the bitterest, most difficult period. And of course they probably have the most to lose by leaving because I think they see that there's potentially a lot of opportunity when the conflict's over.

She says migrant workers will play a big part in rebuilding Libya. Another question is whether those remaining in camps in Tunisia will return to take up their old jobs once it's safe to do so.

I'm Christopher Werth for Marketplace.

Comments

I agree to American Public Media's Terms and Conditions.
With Generous Support From...