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Libya: Safe passage sought for stranded Irish workers

THE Government is trying to find a safe route out of Libya for a group of Irish contractors working close to where some of the worst violence in the country has occurred.

The six workers were yesterday in secure accommodation outside Benghazi, where at least 20 protesters were shot dead by state security forces in one night of violence over the weekend.

Officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs, headed by the Irish ambassador in Italy, Pat Hennessy, have been working to secure safe passage for the workers by air, sea or land.

The six contractors have been working in Libya for an Irish company for several months, a spokesman for the department said.

Although they have transport to get them out of Benghazi, the roads around the city are unsafe, he said.

"The situation in Benghazi is so confused and before you would recommend they move, we have to ensure they can move safely and securely," the spokesman said.

It is estimated that there are less than 10 other Irish nationals in or around Benghazi, and a number of these have mixed backgrounds such as Libyans who may have married an Irish person.

Across the whole of Libya, there are some 40 Irish people remaining, said the spokesman.

It is thought that about 60 Irish people have left Libya since the start of the wave of protests over the last week.

Those who remain have been resident in the country for some period of time.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has said people should avoid all non-essential travel to the troubled country and to avoid all travel to the eastern parts.

Some 80 people gathered in central Dublin yesterday afternoon to illustrate their opposition to the events which are happening in Libya.

The group met at the Spire on O'Connell Street where they chanted anti-Gadaffi slogans.

Salah Gashout, a consultant pediatrician from Tripoli who has been in Ireland for 10 years, travelled from Drogheda for the event.

"This is a time for the tyrant to go. It is time for the whole universe to know about his crimes, about his oppression, about his injustice, poverty and lack of freedom of speech," he said.

Irish Independent