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Libyans leaving Malta to help

A number of Libyans residing in Malta are returning to the North African country to help their co-nationals as the humanitarian crisis escalates, The Sunday Times has learnt.

Others have joined a group of Libyan volunteers who are operating in various countries to network and coordinate efforts to ensure help is delivered to those in need.

Josef Lamlum said one of his friends had gone to Libya soon after the protests started last month.

Now that it was virtually impossible to get into the country, two more friends left the safety of Malta and headed for the Tunisian and Egyptian borders to lend a helping hand and buy medicines.

Other Libyans, who remained in Malta, are working together to gather help for their fellow countrymen.

Tarek Tarhouni is one of these men. “The situation in Libya is just getting worse. Libyan people need more and more help, especially medicines, like insulin and baby food.... Getting these items into Libya is difficult so our priority is getting them to the borders,” he said.

Mr Tarhouni said he had heard of Libyan ex-patriots in the UK who had returned and were killed.

“In Malta I’ve heard people talk about wanting to go back to help,” he said.

One of the things that concerned Libyans in Malta, he said, was that the number of arrests in the troubled North African country had increased drastically over the past days and they were concerned about their families’ safety.

Claims that some Libyans had left Malta to join the anti-Gaddafi rebels could not be confirmed.

One man, who preferred not to be named, said some Libyans in Malta feared being arrested in Malta and taken to Libya. Mr Tarhouni said this fear was not unfounded as, in the past, Maltese authorities were known to have cooperated with Libyan authorities, although things seemed to have changed now.

He said he felt “the fear was being broken” and this was clear during the protests in front of the Libyan Embassy where men were not afraid to show their faces.

As Libyan leader Muammar Gad­dafi refuses to budge from his seat of power and the humanitarian crisis reaches boiling point in Libya, the Maltese authorities are also collecting funds to help the people there.

The government is calling on people to donate money to buy medicines and deliver them to hospitals in Libya. The operation is being coordinated by the Civil Protection Department and a number of bank accounts have been opened.

Anyone who wishes to make a donation can do so through the following bank accounts: HSBC – 078-002391-050, BOV – 40018758443, Lombard Bank – 01440800001, APS Bank – 20000889551, Banif Bank – 0008322418.

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