The Philippine Embassy in Iraq has advised Filipinos in the region to remain calm but alert as tension rises between the central government and local Kurd authorities.
The embassy said it was monitoring news reports of some exchanges of fire between Iraqi Security Forces and Kurdish Peshmerga in Kirkuk Province.
“In view of this development, the Embassy reiterates its advisory for members of the Filipino Community in the Kurdistan Region to remain calm but alert and to stay away from Kirkuk and nearby areas,” the embassy said in a statement issued over the weekend.
While the embassy sees no immediate threat to the safety and security of Filipinos in the region, it urged them “to limit non-essential movement and to continue to monitor the Embassy’s Facebook Pages for updates.”
It advised Filipinos in Kurdistan and other parts of Iraq to steer clear of Kirkuk at this time.
“In connection with the measures taken by the Government of the Republic of Iraq in reaction to the recent independence referendum, please be informed that Filipinos intending to travel to the Philippines and other countries abroad will be directly impacted by Baghdad’s decision to suspend international flights to and from Kurdistan,” the embassy said.
It advised Filipinos intending to travel out of Kurdistan that returning to Iraq may become a problem for those without valid Iraqi visas.
“Filipinos going on vacation would have to take Iraqi Airways to Baghdad to board their connecting flights to the Philippines or elsewhere outside the country,” it said.
“Filipinos who entered Kurdistan directly and without valid Iraqi visas will only be allowed to board their connecting flights out of Baghdad after paying a fine of $420.00 to immigration authorities,” it added.
The embassy said it would be better for our Filipinos to put on hold their travel plans until this matter is clarified.
Although the Kurdistan Region remains under Alert Level I, the embassy said it remained ready to assist and bring home any of our Filipinos who are willing to be repatriated.
“The Embassy would want our kababayans who have been without work or have not been receiving their salaries or have expired iqamas to seriously consider getting repatriated. Please contact us if you would need assistance in going home to your loved ones,” it said.
The embassy advised Filipinos that it was “very important for the Embassy to have an accurate headcount of the number of our kababayans in Kurdistan.”
“In this regard, may we request the assistance of our kababayans in Kurdistan as well as in other parts of Iraq to inform our other kababayans to register so they could be included in the Embassy database,” the embassy said. “We would need to know their names, location and contact details so we would know how to reach them or find them in case of emergency.”
“The Embassy also again calls on our kababayans who still have not registered to please do so as soon as possible so they could be contacted in case of an emergency,” it added.
The Embassy also urged Filipinos in the region, “especially those who are unemployed and undocumented, to consider requesting our assistance in getting repatriated.” /atm