Another 56 Filipinos repatriated from Syria
MANILA, Philippines—The government has repatriated another 56 overseas Filipino workers from Syria, bringing to a little over 400 the total number of OFWs evacuated from the troubled Middle East country, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
In a statement, the DFA said on Sunday the OFWs arrived on Saturday in two batches at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
“Forty came on board an Etihad Airlines flight at 4:15 p.m. while the other 16 arrived at 10:45 p.m. on board a Qatar Airlines flight,” said Raul Hernandez, the DFA spokesperson.
Hernandez said the DFA has been “intensifying its repatriation efforts in Syria to ensure our compatriots are out of harm’s way in that country.”
There are some 17,000 OFWs, mostly undocumented domestic helpers, in Damascus and other Syrian cities hosting Philippine nationals, according to DFA estimates.
On Saturday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario flew to the Syrian capital to “help in the OFW repatriation” program.
Two weeks ago, the DFA raised the crisis alert level in Syria from 3 to 4 in view of the escalating violence in that country.
Under crisis alert level 4, mandatory or forced evacuation of OFWs at government expense will be implemented.
The foreign office called the repatriation of Filipinos in Syria as a “continuing effort of the government since April this year.”
According to Hernandez, Del Rosario had instructed the Philippine embassy in Damascus to “intensify its efforts for the full implementation of Alert Level 4.”
The DFA chief also directed the mission to “assess the situation and submit daily reports, as well as an action and financial plan for the full implementation of Alert Level 4.”
Majority of the OFWs in Syria have ignored the government’s voluntary repatriation program, prompting the embassy to intensify its efforts to reach out to them and convince them to leave the country.
Earlier, the labor department-attached Philippine Overseas Employment Administration banned the deployment of OFWs to Syria.
Meanwhile, an Associated Press report said the presence of Arab League monitors in Syria has re-energized the anti-government protest movement, with tens of thousands turning out over the past three days in cities where the foreign observers are expected to visit.
The monitors are the first Syria has allowed in during the nine month anti-government uprising. They are supposed to ensure the regime of President Bashar Assad complies with terms of the Arab League plan to end the Syrian leader’s crackdown in dissent.
More than 5,000 people have died in the uprising since March, according to the United Nations.
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