Trapped in Tripoli
Thousands of Bangladeshi migrant workers are trapped in trouble-torn Libya, while governments around the world are scrambling to evacuate their nationals from the chaos.
Speaking to The Daily Star by phone last night, several Bangladeshi construction workers complained that the Bangladesh embassy in Tripoli is not extending any assistance to them.
They have appealed to the government for a safe return home from Libya, which has been witnessing a full-blown uprising against the country's long-time strongman Col Muammar Gaddafi for more than a week.
About 70 Bangladeshis -- all workers for Libyan Saraya, a construction firm in Tripoli, are living in a warehouse, also owned by the company. About 50,000 Bangladeshis, mostly low-paid contract workers, are staying in the oil-rich country.
Last night, some of them described horror they have been going through since the anti-government movement started against Gaddafi.
The workers, who spoke to The Daily Star from their make-shift living room, said they are passing days in panic, as “armed people” are on the prowl on the streets outside.
"We are not getting enough food. Our company is providing us some bread and cooked dals," said Shahedul Islam, a 30-year-old construction worker.
Some workers are in a double setback.
Md Russell, a 23-year-old migrant, said some of his co-workers have been waiting for months to return home, as their contracts expired.
"There are some people whose contracts expired three months ago. But the company is not taking any initiative."
"We are now without any job. I have no job for one and a half month. We all want to return home," said a desperate Russell.
"Most of the time, we found the telephone number of the embassy unreachable. When we got connected, the officials misbehaved or did not give a proper answer. Sometimes, they picked up the phone and put it back down without talking,” he said.
Russell said he is left with very little money to survive the days ahead. “If the government does not help us, we will be in serious trouble."
Amir Hossain, another worker, said they could not go out of the compound of the construction company due to gunfights outside between anti-government protesters and Gaddafi loyalists.
The 25-year-old from Munshiganj, who left Bangladesh in December 2008 for Libya, was desperate to return home and asked The Daily Star to inform his family in Dhaka that he is alive.
"We have talked with the company manager. He said he cannot do anything about the situation, if the Bangladesh government does not send any airline to lift us out of here,” said Amir, who also works for Libyan Saraya.
Twelve Bangladeshi workers are taking turns in guarding the warehouse, which is only about 10 kilometres from Tripoli International Airport.
The workers urged the Bangladesh government to follow other countries in how they are evacuating their citizens from Libya.
"Egypt is evacuating their citizens. Countries like China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines are also doing the same. But our government is not aware of this,” said Amir.
Shaheruddin Sagor, 22, said, "We have not seen any famine in Bangladesh in our life. But now we are going through such a period."
Monir Hossain, elder brother of Amir Hossain, told The Daily Star last night, "We are anxious and waiting for my brother's safe return."