UK and Egypt attempt to repatriate citizens

By Doug Newhouse |

Both the UK and Egyptian governments are urgently seeking charter-landing permits from the authorities in Tripoli to repatriate their nationals, after the airport runways were destroyed at Libya’s Benghazi Airport in its second-largest city this week. This follows violence that has claimed more than 300 lives, unsettled stock markets and raised the price of oil to $109 a barrel, as the country’s leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi calls for all enemies of Libya to be executed.

In a statement yesterday, the UK Foreign Secretary William Hague called on the Libyan authorities to protect the safety of all foreign nationals, while Egypt’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said yesterday that he was very concerned about the safety of the estimated 1.5m Egyptian nationals who currently live in Libya.

Hague said yesterday: “We are shocked and appalled by the levels of violence unleashed by the Libyan government in recent days. The situation in Libya is worsening and remains highly unpredictable. The UK supports the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in calling for a full and transparent investigation into reports of attacks on Libyan citizens. 

“We will continue to press for access for human rights monitors. We will also raise Libya in the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The Libyan Government is trying to stop the world seeing what is happening. But they should be held accountable for their actions.

“The safety of British nationals in Libya is of paramount concern. In light of the fluid and dangerous situation we are urgently reinforcing our team on the ground with specialist personnel to provide additional help and assistance to British nationals.

“Already this week British Nationals seeking to leave Libya have encountered significant difficulties. Many are currently in Tripoli Airport without immediate flights out of the country, following flight cancellations, closures of airspace and difficulties securing permits from the appropriate authorities. 

“We are working closely with airlines to assist as many British nationals as possible to depart Libya. In addition, I have decided to mobilise further resources in support of an assisted departure.”

Hague said arrangements are being made for a charter plane to as assist as many British nationals to leave as possible, as well as deploying a Rapid Deployment Team of FCO officials to assist British nationals. In addition, the Royal Navy Frigate HMS Cumberland is being redeployed from the Eastern Mediterranean to international waters near Libya to assist if needed.

Meanwhile, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry has confirmed that it is no longer possible for Egyptair to land its planes at Benghazi Airport in the west if Libya, following the destruction of the airport’s runways. 

Like the British, the Egyptians are also waiting for permission to land at Tripoli Airport to take any citizens home that want to leave. However, what should be a simple process has been further complicated by a call within the Libyan administration for a no-fly zone to be established over all Libyan airspace.

Meanwhile, the consensus view amongst commentators now is that the government in Libya is effectively finished with widespread defections of officials, police and military to the opposition. However, there are no estimates on how long it will take before Gaddafi is either removed or departs – and more importantly how many more lives will have to be lost before that happens.


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