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China in Africa: The Real Story

China and Libya: Update on Workers

Deborah Brautigam

Bangladeshi workers stranded in Libya. Photo: AFP
Last week I posted on China and Libya, highlighting the challenge of Chinese companies employing Chinese workers and the backlash against this. A reader forwarded me an article from a Bangladeshi newspaper, The Daily Star, that puts China's actions into comparative perspective. Where the Chinese government has moved in ships and planes to evacuate the 30-36,000 Chinese working in Libya (most as laborers), Bangladesh has done little to ease the plight of what appears to be anywhere from 45,000 to 60,000 Bangladeshi workers stranded in Libya. According to the article, "a Chinese company moved 804 Bangladeshi workers to Greece from Libya on Sunday."

An October 2008 article in Libyaonline.com provided some history on the Libyan government's policy of recruiting labor abroad. Then, the Libyan government had "directed foreign companies from Germany, Japan and South Korea working in Libya as well as [the] Libyan private sector to recruit workers from Bangladesh." I haven't seen any major newspapers asking whether the instability in Libya would make Bangladesh rethink its labor export strategy...