Hundreds of foreigners leaving Tripoli

/ Source: The Associated Press

Around a thousand Egyptians, Jordanians and Filipinos were boarding a passenger ferry Sunday to escape continuing instability and shortages in the battered capital.

A week after rebels swept into the capital and toppled the regime of Moammar Gadhafi, Tripoli is more secure but remains wracked by shortages and instability.

"The whole situation is worrisome, and daily life is very difficult, so we want to leave until daily life returns to normal," said Abu Obeidi Labib, an Egyptian documentary filmmaker who has lived in Tripoli for 32 of his 35 years.

He wants to leave for the sake of his young daughter, playing around his feet, and his pregnant wife.

"We will return after it calms down, but the (NATO) bombardments upset my child and now my wife can't stand all the shooting," he added. They plan to return to the quiet Egyptian city of Aswan, deep in the south, until she has given birth.

The port was filled with people scrabbling to get on the ferry, which normally plies the waters between Turkey and Lebanon but is now being used by the International Organization for Migration.

It is the group's second trip. They plan several more to help the hundreds of thousands of foreigners stranded in Libya, especially those from countries too poor to send their own ships.

Othman Bilbaisy, the senior operations officer for the IOM, estimated a thousand foreigners, mostly Egyptians, were expected to leave Sunday.

"The number varies every day because when people feel safer, they probably decide to stay," he said. "Most people are migrants and they come to make money so they can't afford to go back empty handed."

The majority of the crowd were young Egyptian day laborers from poor rural towns.

One group boasted that they were using the ship as a free ride home for the upcoming Eid holidays, marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan, and would be returning on the days-long route overland through eastern Libya.

Libya, a country of just six million, used to employ up to a million foreign workers, hundreds of thousands of whom fled when the uprising against Gadhafi started.

They range from construction workers and hotel cleaners to highly paid professionals, such as Mohammed Idris, a 27-year-old Jordanian working as an embryologist at a fertility clinic. On Sunday, he was waiting on the quay to crowd onto the ship with the Egyptian laborers.

With his slight frame, wispy beard and glasses, he seemed out of place in a city overrun by gun-toting rebels flashing victory signs and shooting in the air.

"It will take time to return to normal. The educated people with logic and reason need to come back so that things can calm down again," he said.