Kathmandu, July 4
A Nepali citizen was among at least 44 people killed in an air strike that hit a detention centre for migrants in the eastern suburb of the Libyan capital Tripoli on Tuesday night.
Santosh Shrestha, 26, a permanent resident of Chiti in Lamjung’s Besishahar, lost his life after the airstrike hit Tajoura detention centre that housed more than 600 migrants. The airstrike, reported to be conducted by forces under rebel leader Khalifa Haftar, left more than 130 others injured.
Santosh’s father Som Prasad works as principal at a government school in Besishahar, while his mother Suntali is a housewife. Santosh has a younger brother, an elder sister and two younger sisters, according to Santosh’s first cousin Navin Shrestha.
Santosh entered Libya via Dubai on January 6, according to the Nepali Embassy in Egypt, which also looks after Libya.
Santosh, who had worked in Malaysia for three years and Qatar for one-and-half years, had initially planned to go to Poland. But after his Poland bid failed, he travelled to Libya through agents who promised him passage to Italy.
Navin told THT that his family initially did not know about his plans to go to Libya and came to know about it after things had been finalised.
According to his childhood friend and neighbour Rajendra Prajapati, Santosh told him over phone that he worked at a hotel in Libya. But after finding it difficult to work there amid frequent bombings, Santosh planned to travel to Italy with the help of a Pakistani agent.
The family then transferred Rs 2 lakh to Santosh through Rajendra on May 19 as demanded by the agent for his passage to Italy. “After I deposited the sum, Santosh said he would leave for Italy pronto, and went out of contact,” Rajendra told THT.
Navin said Santosh’s family estimated that he had paid more than Rs 1 million of his earnings from Malaysia and Qatar to agents to go to Libya.
The Nepali Embassy in Cairo came to know about Santosh’s detention among 41 Nepalis through the International Organisation of Migration that is coordinating the return of migrants, said Charge d’affaires at the embassy Sujan Bidari.
Two days ago, the IOM had requested the embassy to issue travel document to Santosh. The embassy then issued the document and forwarded it. “But sadly, we were informed about Santosh’s demise yesterday,” Bidari told THT over phone.
The IOM and the embassy have sent 26 Nepalis back in the past two months, while eight will be reaching Kathmandu tomorrow morning. Six of the remaining Nepalis are safe with the IOM and they will return home soon, according to Bidari.
Bidari said detention of Nepalis in Libya was known only after the IOM, in its visits to detention centres, found Nepalis and informed the Nepali peacekeeping mission there.
Col Sameer Rana, who heads the peacekeeping mission, said after the IOM informed them about Nepalis in detention centres, the mission got in touch with the embassy in Cairo for the issuance of travel document to take them out of the detention centres for their return.
Rana said the IOM informed them about Santosh on July 1. “The process for his return had just begun when the airstrike happened,” he told THT over phone from Libya.
A version of this article appears in print on July 05, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.