DETROIT – About 2,000 Libyan students who attend U.S. colleges are getting a one-year reprieve in financial support after Libya resumed funding that was halted when the U.N. froze about $30 billion of that country's assets, the organization that administers the funds said.
The Canadian Bureau for International Education announced Wednesday that Libya transferred the money through its central bank to continue the Libyan-North American Scholarship Program. The funding covers tuition and monthly living allowances through May 2012 for the students and their dependents.
The Ottawa-based nongovernmental organization sent a letter to students last month warning that it was running out of money. In March, the U.N. froze Libyan assets in an attempt to keep them from the country's leader Moammar Gadhafi.
Basel Alashi, CBIE's vice president of international partnerships, said Thursday his organization had to obtain permits from the United Nations, United States, Canada and the United Kingdom to allow the Libyan government to send the money.
"They look at this at something that was there before all these events started," Alashi said. "They wanted the program to continue."
He declined to say how much money is involved but said it's enough to keep the program going for another year. His office has received hundreds of emails from grateful and relieved students across the U.S. and another 500 in Canada.
Jaber Mazzida, 29, who is working toward a master's degree in education at the University of South Florida, said the news was a "big relief." The married father of a 1-year-old daughter said he will go back to Libya after getting his degree.
"I'll go home. I have to go home," said Mazzida, whose family has fled to Tunisia. "We have to rebuild the country. ... I would go to the front and join friends and people there."
A NATO-led coalition began striking Gadhafi's forces under a U.N. Security Council resolution to protect civilians in March. NATO assumed control of the air campaign over Libya on March 31. It's joined by a number of Arab allies.
Michigan State University's Peter Briggs, director of the university's office for international students and scholars, said it's great news for the 24 students in the program at Michigan State as well as their families. Still, he remains concerned about the fates of 19 other Libyans remaining in the U.S. who had been participating in a separate diplomatic training program at the university.
He's not optimistic that those students, whose program was to run through December, will get such a reprieve before their visas run out July 15 but is grateful for community and university efforts on their behalf. A Libyan Student Support Fund has been established, and a team of lawyers are trying to help those seeking political asylum or other accommodations.
"For us, it's only half the battle," Briggs said. "What are they going to do?"