12:00 AM, March 27, 2011 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, March 27, 2011

On Tunisia-Libya border

Fate of nurses in Libya uncertain

Bangladeshis at Choucha say medical staff detained to work

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Morshed Ali Khan from Choucha, Tunisia-Libya border

Hundreds of Bangladeshi nurses and other medical staff in Libya are being forced to stay in their jobs, said Bangladeshis stranded in Choucha camp.
Mohammad Salauddin, an employee of the medical maintenance department of Sirat, arrived here recently with his wife and five children. He said male and female nurses and staff are not allowed to leave Libya.
“The hospitals are full of dead bodies and hundreds of injured are arriving there every hour,” mentioned Salauddin adding “The authorities have confined the Bangladeshi medical staff to the hospitals.”
Many other fleeing Bangladeshis told stories of how female nurses were detained while on their way to the Tunisia border.
“We were heading for Tunisia on a microbus with four Bangladeshi women in the back seats,” said Taher, from Sylhet.
“At one of the check posts an armed man asked the women out of the vehicle and started interrogating them…As the women tried to plea, several armed men asked the driver to drive on,” he added.
Since they were nurses, they were not permitted to leave, the driver told Taher.
Salauddin said when nurses submitted their resignations to their authorities recently, they were summoned to a hall room where an armed army man asked who wanted to go.
The women were so terrified of the army that they kept quiet.
According to medical aid workers in Choucha camp, Libya has been largely dependent on migrant workers almost in every sector. With thousands of this workforce leaving, the country has come to a standstill. The turmoil is causing deaths and injuries throughout the country every day. If Bangladeshi nurses and doctors are allowed to go home, their hospitals would face severe shortage of manpower.
An official of Bangladesh mission in Tripoli, who is now in Djerba, said they had heard from scores of Bangladeshi nurses, medical assistants and doctors of being barred from leaving the hospital compounds.
Many of them kept telephoning the embassy, Ahsan Kibria, first secretary (Labour) of Bangladesh embassy, told The Daily Star yesterday.
“They told me there was a ban on their movement and therefore, they were passing days in extreme anxiety,” he added.
“I obtained cell phone numbers of several nurses and doctors but was unable to find network. The fleeing migrant workers told me that loyalists of Gaddafi were controlling the mobile phone network.”
The Libyan ministry of health recruited hundreds of these staff for its medical workforce over the last two years.
“There are about 500 Bangladeshi female nurses and hundreds of medical staff working in hospitals across Libya,” noted Kibria.
Stranded workers in Choucha told this correspondent that Libyan forces shot dead a number of female Bangladeshis when they were trying to flee the country. The Daily Star, however, could not independently confirm the news of deaths.

*Morshed Ali Khan writes from the spot where thousands of Bangladeshi workers have taken shelter after fleeing the Libyan upheaval

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