After spending 21 hours sitting on a blanket inside a British military ship that ferried 200 workers from Libya to Malta, Francis Camilleri yesterday hugged his family whom he had not seen in seven weeks.
“It was an escape operation so it was a stressful trip,” Mr Camilleri said, as he walked through the sliding doors at the Valletta sea terminal soon after disembarking from the HMS Cumberland that berthed at about 2 p.m.
Mr Camilleri, an oil worker, was the only Maltese aboard the ship that yesterday entered Grand Harbour for the second time carrying evacuees of several nationalities from Benghazi to Malta.
The frigate arrived in Malta on Saturday, carrying about 250 British workers, and returned to Libyan waters to bring another group to the island, which has taken on the role of an evacuation hub.
Mr Camilleri said he worked on an oil rig in the desert that was a four-hour drive away from Benghazi. When the political unrest erupted his company sent workers to Benghazi from where he was informed he could board the HMS Cumberland.
During his time in Benghazi he did not see any violence but saw several people carrying weapons.
Another person to disembark yesterday, Italian worker Simone Riondato, 28, said the trip was “a bit traumatic” as he was not used to being on board a military ship. He and his colleagues were based in Al-Kufrah from where they drove to Benghazi at night and had to pass through several checkpoints.
“The rebels let us go through without any problems,” he said, adding that the atmosphere in Benghazi was calm and the rebels seemed to have everything under control.
Indian national Rashmi Samal, 30, and his company colleagues worked on a rig about 350 kilometres away from Benghazi. It took them three days to get to Benghazi and four days to get out.
“We were afraid of staying in Libya so decided to move out,” he said, glad to be returning home today.
A woman from the Czech Republic, who preferred not to be named, travelled alone with her four small children.
Clearly exhausted by the trip she said she was “tired” but felt it was important to take the children out of Libya for their safety.
When the Cumberland docked, Marjorie Hughes from the UK looked out for her grandson, a leading seaman aboard the vessel. The ship had been meant to visit Malta for a routine visit today.
After an exchange of hugs, her grandson was given permission to go have a coffee with his grandmother.
British Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday personally thanked Prime Minister Lawrence Gonzi for Malta’s assistance in the evacuation of workers from Libya.
In a statement to the House of Commons on the Libya crisis, he said he also wanted to pay tribute to the people of Malta, and “not for the first time”.