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Bantay OCW (Ang Boses ng OFW)

Syrian refugees and the OFWs’ mandatory repatriation

/ 01:40 AM September 20, 2015

When war broke out in Syria, the Philippine government immediately announced that crisis alert level 4 has been raised on the war-torn country.

Mandatory repatriation had been implemented since then due to the protracted civil war in Syria.

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Rescuing and bringing home overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) anywhere in the world have always been the government’s top priority.

Although as always and expected, our OFWs, as much as possible, do not entertain the idea of returning home as long as they still have existing contracts and despite uncertainties and conflicts.

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They even reached the point of attacking the government for exaggeration and would insist that the situation was not as bad as they assessed.

Bantay OCW remembered those days when we made our appeal almost every day for months—and even years—to our OFWs and their relatives to avail of the repatriation program of the government.

Despite those appeals, they did not heed the warnings and took the risks on the last-minute chance of going home when they could no longer bear the situation.

It happened in Yemen, Libya, Lebanon, Egypt and in some Middle Eastern countries. There was even a point when Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario announced that if our Filipinos won’t avail of the mandatory repatriation program, they should issue a waiver releasing government officials of their responsibilities, that it was their own choice and refusal not to go home.

The primary concern of Del Rosario on the issue was basically the safety of his own team, the lives of the officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs who were dispatched to those war-torn countries to bring home their countrymen. Of course, they also risked their very lives in the line of duty, to rescue and save Filipinos as much as they can, in order to bring them home alive and safe to their families.

I met one OFW from Syria and she was very thankful that she was rescued by our embassy officials during those days when she thought she could no longer leave Syria.

She also felt pity for her Syrian boss and the other Syrians who fled from their country to seek refuge to other European nations. A repatriation program was always taken for granted by our OFWs.

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She said that she felt good when Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie, now serving as the UN Special Envoy of High Commissioner for Refugees, stood up as the voice of the Syrians. Jolie pleaded on their behalf saying, “Every country must be part of the solution,” to accept them and let them continue their lives peacefully outside of Syria.

According to our Bantay OCW European bureau chief Arlene Andes, who also volunteered in Belgium to help those refugees, it was quite shocking to see those refugees crying for help, asking for compassion and mercy to let them continue living.

Andes said many of them introduced themselves as professionals in Syria and she was told that their skills could be utilized if they would be given the chance.

Now going back to our OFWs, isn’t it also touching to know that in the midst of extreme crises, you can be assured that you have a government, dedicated public servants, courageous embassy officials and staff ready to put their lives in the line of duty?

Isn’t it time that our OFWs acknowledge the sacrifices of those officials through the government efforts to help them at all cost?

While you still have the choice and the opportunity to leave, immediately avail of the life-saving repatriation program of our government.

Susan Andes, also known as Susan K., can be heard over Radyo Inquirer dzIQ 990 AM, Monday to Friday, 10:30 a.m.-12 noon; audio/video live streaming is at www.ustream.tv/channel/ dziq; website: bantayocwfoundation.org; helpline: 0998-9912629 (BoCw); e-mail: [email protected]/ [email protected]

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TAGS: Bantay OCW, Crisis, mandatory repatriation, OFW, Overseas Filipino workers, Refugee, repatriation, Syria
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