DFA bigwig to ask Syria to ease exit rules for OFWs
Foreign Undersecretary Rafael Seguis left for Syria on Sunday to request the government there to simplify exit requirements for Filipino workers trying to escape the escalating violence in the country and facilitate their repatriation to the Philippines.
In a text message to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Seguis said he and six members of the government’s Rapid Response Team (RRT), acting on orders of Secretary Albert del Rosario, “should be in Damascus by early Monday afternoon.”
Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Raul Hernandez said that joining the team were officers from the DFA, Department of Labor and Employment, and Department of the Interior and Local Government who will assist the Philippine Embassy in Damascus in the repatriation of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from Syria.
“Secretary Del Rosario also ordered the augmentation of personnel at our embassy in Damascus by assigning staff from nearby foreign service posts,” Hernandez said.
Earlier, Hernandez told reporters that OFWs trying to flee Syria were being charged up to $10,000 by their Arab employers to be allowed to leave. It used to be $4,000, he said.
Another problem was the continued deployment of OFWs to Syria—courtesy of illegal labor recruiters—despite the violence plaguing the country, said Hernandez.
Last week, the DFA announced the deployment of its RRT to Syria, citing the “escalating violence and worsening security situation” in that country.
So far, the foreign office has repatriated more than 1,800 OFWs.
This week, several OFWs are scheduled to fly home, according to the foreign office, noting that an additional 1,300 had expressed willingness to avail of the government’s mandatory evacuation program.
More OFWs are “set to come home as hostilities continue to grip Syria,” Hernandez said.
Syria has been under the DFA’s crisis alert level 4, or mandatory evacuation of OFWs, since late last year.
Instead of condemning the atrocities committed by the Syrian government, the Philippines is “maintaining a strategic silence on the situation in Syria as we are focused on the safety and welfare of several thousands of our people that remain there,” Del Rosario has said.
Over 17,000 people have been killed in the 16-month uprising against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, according to the United Nations.
Originally posted: 3:12 pm | Sunday, July 22nd, 2012
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