Evacuation of OFWs in Sudan under way – DFA
MANILA, Philippines — The government is ready to start the evacuation of Filipinos from Sudan “within 24 hours,” a senior official of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Monday.
Foreign Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Eduardo Jose de Vega said at the Laging Handa briefing: “Within 24 hours, we will have batches who will be riding evacuation buses bound for Egypt.”
But he also noted the difficulties in evacuating overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from that country in Northeast Africa amid the fighting there that erupted two weeks ago.
Furthermore, Sudan’s two international airports are closed, De Vega also noted.
“So what’s happening now is that they’re waiting for the call of the embassy [in Egypt] as to when they (the Filipinos in Sudan) can be brought to the buses that we rented which would take them to the south of [neighboring] Egypt,” he said.
“It’s a long trip, 1,000 kilometers plus. Maybe it will take 15 hours minimum to get there. When they’re in Egypt, they will be met by embassy personnel,” he added.
Ready to leave
De Vega said an initial group of 156 Filipinos is ready to leave “at any given moment” and is only awaiting the embassy’s call.
But the number of Filipinos that the embassy has been tracking rose to almost 700 after the embassy appealed to all Filipinos in Sudan to leave the country.
Around 300 have asked the embassy for help, De Vega said. Some do not have their passports with them as they had left these with their companies or employers.
Most Filipino workers in Sudan, he said, are teachers and engineers who are highly paid, but there are also housekeepers employed there.
There are no reports so far of Filipino casualties amid the fighting between the Sudanese military and a paramilitary faction, he said.
According to De Vega, the Philippines’ honorary consul in Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, is helping in the evacuation of Filipinos.
He noted that other embassies are scrambling to find available transportation from Sudan to Egypt, with the cost so far reaching $300 (P16,722.15) per person.
De Vega said the plan is to bring the evacuees to the southern Egyptian city of Aswan, where flights to Cairo can be booked at the airport there.
The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration has a team in Cairo ready to assist the repatriated OFWs, he said.
Meanwhile, the embassy has contacted the Egyptian Foreign Ministry to allow Filipinos without visas and passports to enter Egypt on humanitarian grounds.
The government will shoulder all expenses for the bus trip and flight to Manila, De Vega said.
He added that the Armed Forces of the Philippines is ready to send a plane to transport Filipinos out of Egypt.
Escape to Saudi
De Vega confirmed that several Filipinos have already been evacuated by their employers, including three Filipino women working for Saudia Airlines in Khartoum who have safely crossed over to Saudi Arabia.
He said these Filipinos and other foreign employees were brought by a Saudi military vessel to King Faisal Naval Base in Jeddah, where the Philippine consul met the Filipino evacuees.
But there was at least one Filipino in Sudan left alone in a house after he was abandoned by his employer, De Vega said.
The Philippine Embassy in Egypt, which has jurisdiction over Sudan, continues to receive messages from Filipinos in parts of Sudan where electricity and internet connections have not yet been disrupted.
De Vega said the DFA had requested the Saudi government to accommodate Filipinos in Sudan waiting at or heading toward Port Sudan, which faces Saudi Arabia across the Red Sea.