50 Pinoys leave Sudan as evacuation begins
MANILA, Philippines — The government is preparing to evacuate more Filipinos from Sudan following the departure of an initial batch of 50 after a 72-hour ceasefire was declared in the East African country.
President Marcos said on Tuesday that he met with military and defense officials to discuss the matter. “Right now, we are hoping that the 72-hour ceasefire that has been declared will hold and we are preparing ourselves,” he said in a video message posted on the Presidential Communications Office’s social media pages.
“We’re watching this situation very, very closely and to see if there’s a window of opportunity for us to get out our nationals,” he added.
According to him, Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople was on her way to the region to take advantage of the lull in fighting to bring more Filipinos to safety.
The government, he said, was trying to find “alternative ways” to evacuate them since land routes were not completely safe and airports were being bombed.
A possibility was to bring the evacuees to Saudi Arabia and Djibouti, aside from the longer overland route to Egypt that was currently being used.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said that 50 Filipinos left Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, by land on Monday night (Manila time). They will travel to Aswan, then to the Philippine Embassy in Cairo.
“They will be repatriated to the Philippines through available commercial flights from Cairo,” Tessie Daza, spokesperson for the DFA, told reporters.
Earlier, Ople said she wanted to make sure that those who evacuate would be given financial assistance.
“Many of them brought nothing, and there are children and women among them, so we want to make sure that there are proper facilities,” she told reporters.‘Welfare assistance stations’
“My immediate task would be to set up our welfare assistance stations in the various border points, and also to assist and provide any support needed to Ambassador Ezzedin Tago,” Ople said, referring to the Philippine envoy to Egypt who also has jurisdiction over Sudan.
Tego, she added, was communicating with Filipinos in Sudan and working out “certain arrangements” to bring them to safety.
According to her, the President’s instruction was “to get all of them (Filipinos in Sudan) to safety as quickly as possible,” whether or not they had travel documents.
Quoting a DFA report, Ople said that 725 Filipinos in Sudan had contacted the embassy and that 327 had requested assistance although the number could go up.
She added that evacuees would be provided with $200 as immediate financial assistance. Those who are repatriated to the Philippines may also avail themselves of further government support.
For those who do not want to return to the Philippines, the government may explore the possibility of looking for temporary jobs for them in Saudi Arabia, Ople said, noting that many of the Filipinos in Sudan were highly skilled.
The United States announced on Monday that warring factions in Sudan had agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire starting at midnight on April 24, after 10 days of fighting killed at least 427 people and wounded over 3,700, according to UN agencies.