Escaping Libya: An interview with a Filipina nurse

By ARTHUR L. ALLAD-IW
www.nordis.net

The on-going war that is destabilizing the oil-rich nation forced her to get out of Libya. And her well paying job as a nurse for more than one-year in a privately-owned hospital in the nation’s capital city of Tripoli. With heavy heart, she chose to leave Tripoli and will, like thousands of other licensed nurses, face the problem of joblessness of job insecurity in the Philippines.

Regina Hombrebueno, in her mid-20s, is a nursing graduate from one of the tertiary schools in Baguio City in 2010. Like other nurses who were armed with their professional licenses, she applied for the Middle East in a company job-fair sponsored by a placement agency in the Baguio City hall in 2013.

She and the company agreed to a two-year contract but she believes she was actually “tricked” to accept a one-year contract. As allegedly, it was “rushed” by the company for her to leave the country and a plane ticket was already acquired for her. Thinking of the absence of employment for nurses here, she agreed to the one-year contract to begin with and she even agreed to pay for her placement’ fee an amount of PhP 45,000, the equivalent of her one month salary abroad.

Fortunately, she landed as a nurse at Tripoli’s Al Fardus Clinic, a part of a privately-owned hospital.It had a bed capacity for 100 patients. She was enjoying what she claimed was a satisfactory salary and liberal privileges. She was with 29 Filipino health workers and one Ukranian, they were housed in a dormitory where all were well provided for, including transport service to and from the hospital.

Tripoli is populated by more than one million. It lies at the western extremity of Libya near the Tunisian border of the African continent. It is one of the leading centers of Libya’s economy where businesses flourish like oil, in banking, communications, finance, and manufacturing. It is also where the largest international airport of the country is located.

Regine, as she is fondly called, was just more than a year in her job at Al Fardus Clinic when violence heightened in the newly-established government against the militias, which controlled most of Tripoli, and the Islamist groups which controlled most of Benghazi.

“Because of the chaotic situation, the Philippine government declared level 3 which means voluntary repatriation for Filipinos,” explained Regine. But few decided to go home as they believed the violence can be contained.

The situation abruptly turned to worst. A Filipina was reportedly gang-raped in Tripoli. There were reports of foreigners robbed off their hard earned salaries (particularly those working in state-owned institutions who receive salaries after six months) when they go to the banks to send their (salaries) home. Other criminal activities became un-controlled in that period of conflict. And she, personally, shared that the Libyan situation was better during the time of Pres. Moamar Kadhafi, who was toppled three years ago.

The situation at that time made the Philippine government declare a level 4 for Filipinos, who were forced to leave Libya.

Regine related their experiences in that war: combatants bombed Tripoli’s sources of water, oil mines, and food processing-institutions. They felt the hunger, including the absence of social services due to the destructions of various industries. Even their hospital lacked oxygen, electricity, water, medical supplies.

In the early part of August, 27 Filipino workers from Al Fardus Clinic were among the Filipinos who, unfortunately and forcedly left Tripoli and travelled to Libya’s border with Tunisia. From August 8 when they left under heightened war conditions, they reached Tunisia City on August 12. They able to rest in a hotel and got to the airport in the morning of the 20th where they caught the Philippine Airline plane home on the 21st.

Regine was among the 103 Cordillerans who were able to get home from the 307 Cordillerans working in Libya. She narrated that she was not considered a memberof the OWWA and therefore did not receive the OFW financial relief of P11,000. She lamented that she was registere for the first year with OWWA but only failed to register her 2nd year which was but a few months before she was evecuated from Libya to come home.

While she is happy being home alive, she sees a dim future for her as a nurse. “The job opportunities for nurses here is very slim,” she said. From the thousands of licensed Filipino nurses, they are either jobless or into other jobs, like in the call centers where job security is also a big problem.

Still, going abroad is an open option for her – the government’s declared Bagong Bayani. # nordis.net

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