A TEACHER from Port St Mary who escaped from Libya has hit out at the support given by the British authorities.
Kirsty Bartley, who’s 26, had been teaching biology at an international school in Tripoli for 18 months.
Asked what assistance she received from the British authorities, Kirsty said: ‘Absolutely nothing. Their advice was to stay put and phone back or check on the internet, which I feel wasn’t just neglectful but dangerous.
‘For one thing the phone and internet lines were down making that advice impossible to follow. I had to rely on the kindness and compassion of the Portuguese and Italians to get me home – where was the British effort?
‘So now I am calling for an iquiry into the British response and how they will handle such events.’
Kirsty, who is from Fistard, relived her last few days in Libya.
‘My colleagues and I at the International School of Tripoli were following the news reports on BBC World Service and Al Jazeera and had seen leaflets calling for “A Day of Rage” in Tripoli on the 17th and 18th, but it wasn’t until Saturday [19th] when we heard the protesting had reached Sebah (on the outskirts of Tripoli) that we began to worry.
‘Then in the early hours of Sunday morning we heard gunfire in the streets outside my apartment block.’
Things took a turn for the worse around lunchtime the next day when the school, in which she had worked for 18 months, closed down and sent the schoolchildren home.
Kirsty went to book a flight home on the internet only to find there were no flights available.
‘We all stocked up on food and water and barricaded ourselves into our apartments, it was terrifying at night, we were like prisoners in our own homes.’
Meanwhile, back in the Isle of Man her concerned parents were desperately trying to find flights to bring her home.
‘Then on Tuesday morning news came of a possible evacuation flight, so throwing a few personal possessions into a suitcase along with some essential provisions, she made her way with seven others to Tripoli airport by minibus.
‘We left at dawn, the journey was earily quiet apart from one police roadblock. I was travelling with a Portuguese family and their sons, which in retrospect, I was very grateful for.
‘When we arrived we joined 200 men in a chaotic struggle to enter the terminal. Thankfully as women with children we were pushed to the front.
‘When we got in, all the flights had been cancelled and none of the desks were open. Imagine Heathrow at Christmas, but without the tinsel and with everyone tired, hungry, angry and lots of testosterone flying around.
‘The airport police were pushing, shoving and clubbing men who got in their way.’
Several hours passed while the numbers in the airport swelled to a point the doors were locked leaving many thousands of angry people outside on the grass. Rumours of flights came and went and a sense of desperation pervaded the smokey airport atmosphere.
‘Then at 3pm we noticed the Portuguese ambassador and his aides circulating the departure terminal, because I was with a Portuguese family he said he would try to get me on the flight. It was by no means guaranteed.’
For the next couple of hours Kirsty and the other evacuees made their way slowly though passport control in a tightly huddled group for fear they might lose one another or be left behind. Finally, in the early evening they boarded a Portuguese military plane which took them to Sicily where the Italian military secured her a flight back to the island.