It took a revolution to get me out of Libya, and now I’m never going back

Phil Johnson
Phil Johnson
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A Leyland man who has spent the last 10 years working in Libya has vowed never to return to the troubled country.

Phil Johnson, 56, of Spring Meadow, was rescued from the volatile region by a Royal Navy boat from Benghazi last week.

Now back in his Leyland home, the father-of-two said: “It took a revolution to get me out of Libya, and now I’m never going back.”

Phil first ventured to the country in 1986 before taking up a permanent position as an electrical engineer with Sirte Oil Company a decade ago.

He was living in an ex-pat compound in the coastal district of Marsa el Brega when news spread that rebels were rising up against Colonel Gaddafi and violence was spreading.

Phil said: “We had no idea what was going on. The internet had been cut so all we knew was what was being said on BBC World News and what our families at home were telling us.

“Gaddafi was a tyrant and over the years people have disappeared because they complained or tried to drum up opposition against him.

“People were locked up for years without ever appearing in court, but as with everything, you get used to it.

“Then when people start getting shot around you, everything changes. It would be stupid to stay out there and risk dying for a job. Nothing is worth that.”

Phil and his other British colleagues in the compound were initially told to stay where they were until the British Embassy could arrange for help.

But as food supplies started to dwindle the camp got more and more agitated. Bosses at the oil company eventually arranged for coaches to take them to Benghazi, where a Royal Navy vessel would pick them up and bring them back to the UK.

Phil, whose contract means he works for nine weeks in Libya and then three weeks at home, said: “We heard Gaddafi had employed mercenaries from other African countries and they had started to make their way to Tripoli.

“My passport was kept in Tripoli for work reasons and the embassy told me to get there to pick it up. But it was eight hours’ drive away and we had heard about cars being attacked and people being shot.

For the full story, see this week’s Leyland Guardian.