After the raising of alert level in Iraq to 4, the Philippnine Government has ordered a mandatory repatriation of all Filipinos presently situated in the country amid rising tensions between the United States and Iran.
According to Jomar Sadie Chargé d’Affaires for the Philippine Embassy in Iraq, “Ang marching order sa amin ay mandatory repatriation”.
However, OFWs in Iraq will not be forced to go home. They may opt to be evacuated to a safe place instead. One option is to send the OFWs to Saudi Arabia where frigates are awaiting their arrival.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo stated in an interview with CNN Philippines: “Repatriation is out of the question when there is a shooting war. We have to place them in a safe place. Hindi naman sila kailangang umuwi habang nagkakaroon ng giyera doon o digmaan. Hindi mo naman maiuuwi iyun talaga,”
He added that repatriation is the Philippine Government’s end goal.
The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) expressed their readiness to roll out a mass repatriation for some over 4,000 OFWs living and working in the Middle East. Deployment of C-130 planes and tapping the services of cruise ships are also being considered by military officials. The BRP Gabriela Silang is sailing to Oman or Dubai to help in the repatriation according to the Philippine Coast Guard.
The US and Iran conflict has been escalating rapidly after US President Donald Trump ordered an airstrike that killed the Iranian Military Head Qassem Soleimani shortly after his arrival in Baghdad, Iraq on January 3. Iran retaliated by firing missiles at two bases in Iraq which are housing the US troops.
The Philippine Embassy in Iraq is encouraging OFWs to contact the office following the repatriation order
Filipinos in Iraq were urged to contact the embassy following the repatriation order.
“We know the options and choices of our citizens abroad may change. They may choose to wait. The key is to keep in close touch with the embassy so they’re properly informed,” Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Administrator Hans Cacdac said.
There are 4,204 Filipinos in Iraq — 4,000 of them are undocumented or irregular migrants — according to DFA’s Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers data as of June 2019.
Filipinos in Iraq may contact the embassy at 0781 606 6822 and 0751 616 7838. They may also contact the embassy via email through firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, or through its Facebook page, Philippine Embassy in Iraq.
Photo Credit: CNN Philippines