Malta: Efforts To Rescue Irish Citizens Trapped In Libya To Resume: UPDATED

25 Feb

The Air Corps is to try to evacuate Irish citizens from Tripoli today after a failed attempt on Wednesday night.

A six-person emergency civil assistance team led by Ireland’s Ambassador to Rome, Pat Hennessy, flew to Valetta in Malta last night.

They planned to fly into Tripoli on a commercial airline this morning with visas supplied by the Libyan embassy in London to prepare the way for the Air Corps CASA aircraft.

Some 31 Irish citizens were still in Tripoli last night, the Department of Foreign Affairs said, and there were another 12 in Benghazi and six others in the desert.

It is expected those in Benghazi will leave by boat organised in partnership with other EU countries and those in the desert are expected to drive across the border or make their way to Tripoli.

While Tripoli remained largely locked down yesterday, pro-Gadafy militiamen and African mercenaries raided homes, making arrests, and took bodies from hospital morgues.

However, Col Gadafy’s hold on cities and towns around the capital came under challenge, with disturbances and protests reported in many areas. The southern oil fields were reported to be under rebel control.

The Air Corps’ 25-seater CASA landed at Tripoli airport on Wednesday night, but officers on board were not allowed to disembark or make contact with the Irish waiting in the terminal.

Irish people had been gathering in the terminal from early morning in anticipation of the flight. At one stage, they boarded a bus and went out on to the tarmac to find the aircraft after British foreign office representatives told them it was waiting, but it had already left.

At a press briefing yesterday, Peadar Carpenter, co-ordinator of the emergency crisis centre in the Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin, said the officers did not have pre-entry clearance when they landed and were unable to negotiate visas. They were not allowed to use phones, he said, and could not contact anyone.

“They stayed there for four or five hours trying to negotiate and to see if they could get any change, but despite all their best efforts they could not get agreement to even go into the airport terminal to talk to our citizens,” Mr Carpenter said.

What had happened was “very, very regretful”, he said. The problem was that Ireland did not have a presence on the ground in Libya.

Secretary general of the department David Cooney complimented his staff’s hard work and said he was very pleased with how they had approached the crisis.

When there was no embassy on the ground, they couldn’t be there “to hold people’s hands”, he said. “The best advice we can give them is to try to get out on a commercial flight and be careful.”

NEWS UPDATE:

There are fears of an upsurge in violence in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, today with anti-government demonstrations planned for after Friday prayers.

 Libya - Rebels in control of several cities
Libya – Rebels in control of several cities
 
There are fears of an upsurge in violence in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, today with anti-government demonstrations planned for after Friday prayers.

A Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson has confirmed that two Irish people have managed to leave Benghazi on a British-operated boat bound for Malta this morning.

The UN Human Rights Council is currently holding a special session on the situation in Libya. You can watch the session in Geneva live now.

The European Union Foreign Policy Chief, Catherine Ashton, said that the EU should consider restrictive measures against Libya.

An Irish team has arrived in Malta to help evacuate the 40 or so Irish citizens still in the country.

It is not yet known when the team will fly on to Tripoli. That depends on when they get clearance from the Libyan authorities.

It is understood 26 Irish people remain in Tripoli with 12 in the eastern city of Benghazi. From there, people can be evacuated by sea.

Dependent on local conditions six more Irish citizens are, if they can, making their way to departure points.

Speaking on Morning Ireland, a Libyan woman – who has lived in Ireland – said she believed that forces loyal to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi would open fire on anti-government demonstrators if they go ahead with the protest in Tripoli.

The woman, Aysha, who is in the Libyan capital, spoke of the tense atmosphere in the city.

US President Barack Obama is leading moves to formulate an international response to the crisis.

Yesterday, he spoke to the leaders of Italy, France and Britain. It is understood Washington is keeping all options open including military action and sanctions.

Reports from within Libya say forces loyal to Colonel Gaddafi have attacked rebels holding towns near Tripoli, but there is no sign they have broken the momentum of opposition gains in the uprising.

US seeks action over Libya | 25/02/2011

Libyan leader blames al-Qaeda for uprising | 25/02/2011

EU states may use military to rescue citizens | 25/02/2011

  • Gaddafi on the brink as Libyan rebels advance
  • Libya: Efforts to evacuate foreign citizens
  • Muammar Gaddafi defies calls to step down
  • Pressure mounts on Gaddafi regime in Libya
  • Clashes reported in several Libyan towns
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