"Fend For Yourself!" (Or What To Do If You Are A Brit Stuck In Libya)
Mark Seddon is the former United Nations Correspondent and New York Bureau Chief for Al-Jazeera English TV. He reported from eighteen countries during that time, including North Korea, China, Haiti, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has interviewed, amongst others, Ban Ki-Moon, Lech Walesa, Tony Blair, Hans Blix, Michael Foot, Mia Farrow, and George Clooney. In a journalistic career spanning over twenty years, he has been Editor of Tribune and an elected member of the UK Labour Party's National Executive Committee. He has written for most British newspapers and many magazines, including The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Mail, The Times, The Spectator, New Statesman, Private Eye, British Journalism Review and Country Life Magazine. For a number of years he was a Diarist at the London Evening Standard, and has also reported for, amongst others, the BBC and Sky TV. He lives in Buckingham, England.
As Libyan dictator, Colonel Gadaffi, defiantly declared that he would not quit, and clashes continued between the security forces and unarmed civilians, the plight of foreign nationals stuck in Libya didn’t register much with the media.
Yet even as Britain’s Foreign Secretary was announcing that the Government would charter a plane within the next 48 hours, and have Royal Navy vessel, HMS Cumberland, stationed just off the Libyan coast in case an emergency evacuation was needed, complaints emerged from those in Britain who had relatives still in Libya – and at the alleged failure of the UK Foreign Office to come to their aid.
Earlier today, the head of a UK educational trust, who has been trying to get thirteen employees out of Libya, sent me this report;
British Airways & BMI flights scheduled to fly to Tripoli today have been cancelled, although many other national airlines are still flying in – and leaving.
- The Foreign & Commonwealth Office, until this afternoon, had no plans to provide any repatriation services
- The FCO advises British citizens to turn up at Tripoli airport with lots of cash and try and buy their way onto flights (http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/travel-advice-by-country/middle-east-north-africa/libya )
- London based FCO telephone’ Help-lines’ for families with relatives in Libya are ‘closed’
- There are unconfirmed reports that Benghazi airstrip has been bombed rendering it out of action. (The company I work for has British nationals employed in both Tripoli and Benghazi and we are having major problems getting them out of the country.)
Britain, under former Prime Minister Blair proved extremely responsive each time Colonel Gadaffi or one of his minions demanded something. From weaponry to training for the Colonel’s ‘Special Forces’ – he asked and he got.
At the very least you might think that a similar sort of priority could be attached to the 3000 or so Brits still marooned in Libya.
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