Filipinos ignoring calls for repatriation from Egypt

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05:56 AM August 23rd, 2013

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By: Tarra Quismundo, August 23rd, 2013 05:56 AM

DFA spokesman Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez: Lukewarm response. INQUIRER.net FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Thursday Filipinos in Egypt were coming to the Philippine Embassy in Cairo in trickles to sign up for repatriation after the violence in that Middle East country worsened.

The same lukewarm response from Filipinos was seen by the DFA during past evacuations of Philippine citizens from other crisis-stricken countries in Africa and the Middle East.

DFA spokesman Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez called again on Filipinos in Egypt to heed the call of their government and leave the Arab country where protests against the sacking of President Mohammed Morsi have grown increasingly large and violent.

“We are urging our citizens to register with the embassy as soon as possible,” said Hernandez.

He said the Philippine Embassy in Cairo had mobilized Filipino community leaders to assist in the repatriation by reaching out to the estimated 6,000 Filipinos all over Egypt.

“We have been advising our people to take extra precautions and to seek help from our embassy. We believe it is for their safety that they be repatriated,” Hernandez said in a press briefing on Thursday.

“It has become necessary for them to be repatriated. We’re asking them to contact our embassy, get in touch with our leaders and coordinators so that arrangements could be made for their repatriation,” he said.

The DFA has raised alert level 4 in Egypt for the Filipinos there after Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario traveled to the strife-torn country last week and saw for himself the dire security situation. Some 900 people have died in the last two months in clashes between state security forces and supporters of Morsi.

Hernandez said previous mandatory repatriations conducted by the DFA in other troubled countries were also initially met with indifference by Filipino expatriates.

“That’s always the challenge that we face with regard to mandatory repatriation. We experienced this in Libya, Syria and also in Yemen,” he said.

“What is important is that we continue to encourage them and make resources available to them so that when they finally decide to go home for their safety, we can help them,” Hernandez said.

The government has released $240,000, or about P10 million, to cover the repatriation effort, including the airfare of returning Filipinos.

So far only five Filipinos—three from Cairo and two from Alexandria—had taken up the government offer of a free ride home, arriving in Manila on Wednesday afternoon.

Currently the DFA is also conducting a mandatory repatriation of Filipinos from Syria where civil war has broken out between rebel forces and the military of President Bashir al-Assad. Since 2011, the Philippine government has flown 4,510 Filipinos home, leaving some 3,000 still in Syria.

Philippine officials meanwhile are coordinating with Egyptian authorities in the investigation of the death of a Filipino woman whose body was found in a garbage dump in Nasr City, a district in Cairo.

Hernandez said a forensic investigation was under way to ascertain the identity of the woman whose body was found inside a suitcase on Aug. 18. A passport was found with the body but it was not known if it belonged to the woman.

A friend of the woman had reported her missing to the Philippine Embassy in Cairo on Aug. 17, some five days after she disappeared.

It was unclear if the woman’s death was related to the violence in Cairo, Hernandez said.

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