The foreign ministry on Friday said that intense efforts were still underway to evacuate the remaining eight Greeks still in Libya, who were stranded at worksite at Gialo, deep in the desert. Though the site has its own private airstrip, Libyan authorities have so far refused planes permission to fly overhead or land.
This is the last remaining pocket of Greeks needing to be evacuated following Thursday's successful operations by sea and air that brought 4,500 people out of strife-torn Libya, including 276 Greek nationals.
Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Dollis, who has been in charge of coordinating the evacuation operations, said that he was in constant contact with the eight Greeks in Gialo, who are trapped there with 10 Cypriot nationals and more than 200 colleagues of other nationalities.
"They are eight Greeks but it is as if they are 1,008. We attach as much importance to the eight as we did to the rest," Dollis underlined in an interview with NET television on Friday. Describing the efforts to extricate them from Gialo for the past three days, Dollis said the situation was comparable to that in Sarajevo in 1995, where there was complete chaos on all levels and intervention was extremely difficult.
Planes carrying Libya evacuees return to Athens
All three C-130 military transport planes sent to Libya returned safely to Athens airport in the early hours of Friday, carrying upward of 200 Greeks and Cypriots evacuated from the strife-torn country. Among those brought back was a member of staff from the Greek embassy in Tripoli with gunshot wounds in the shoulder and leg.
The first C-130 to return from Tripoli landed late on Thursday night with 88 Greeks on board, who described the situation in Libya as "tragic" and stressed their relief to be home. Foreign ministry general secretary Ioannis Zepos underlined the difficulties in the operation to ensure their safe return, including the difficulty they had boarding the planes.
The second and third C-130 planes, carrying 83 evacuees from Tripoli and 45 evacuees from Surt, respectively, arrived shortly after midnight.
The injured man, who had been shot on Wednesday afternoon, arrived in the second plane and was taken straight to hospital. Authorities said that his condition did not engender concern.
Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Dollis, who had travelled out to Libya on the C-130s in order to coordinate the evacuation operation, spoke of harrowing scenes "not easy to describe" and warmly praised the Greek armed forces for their assistance in returning Greek nationals home.
"It is not easy to describe the scenes we saw and the way in which our people managed to hold out these days. I am proud of my country," he said.
Ten Greeks are still trapped in a location deep in the Libyan desert, along with a group of Cypriots and other EU citizens. The Greek government is currently making efforts in coordination with the governments of other countries to ensure their safe return.
Meeting on reception of foreign nationals evacuated from Libya
The reception of Chinese citizens evacuated from Libya and their subsequent repatriation dominated in a meeting of local authorities held on Friday in the port city of Irakleio on the southern Aegean island of Crete.
Greece has agreed to offer hospitality to Chinese evacuees arriving from Libya, who will stay on Crete until arrangements are made for their return to China.
The meeting focused on the reception procedure implemented considering that the ferryboat “Eleftherios Venizelos” provided by “ANEK Lines” will arrive from Benghazi on Saturday carrying thousands of evacuees followed by other two ferryboats expected to arrive soon.
Another issue that dominated in the meeting was the coordination of an airlift operation to be launched in the next two days in consultation with police, airport authorities and the Chinese embassy. Roughly 4-6 flights will take off from the island on a daily basis for a period of 10-15 days until all Chinese evacuees are back to their country.
Hospitality issues for roughly 4,500 people from the Philippines to be evacuated from Libya shortly were also discussed.