Another batch of 600 Filipinos to return from Syria-A A +A
Thursday, September 13, 2012
MANILA -- Another batch of 600 overseas Filipino workers will be repatriated to the Philippines from strife-torn Syria in the next few weeks, the Department of Foreign Affairs said on Thursday.
Of this figure, 200 are from the northwestern city of Aleppo, where heavy skirmishes between rebels and government troops are taking place.
Foreign Affairs Spokesman Raul Hernandez said the Filipinos were allowed by the Syrian government to leave even without the compulsory exit requirements following a meeting between officials from Syria and the Philippines last week.
“We have been assured by the Syrian government that these workers, plus their exit visa requirements, will be waived,” Hernandez told a press briefing.
As soon as the papers and arrangements are made, we would be ready to repatriate them,” he said.
Majority of these returning Filipinos are those whose employment contracts have already expired, Hernandez added.
About 95 percent of Filipinos in Syria are undocumented, working as domestic helpers and earning an average of US$150 a month.
A number of them entered the country on a tourist visa and subsequently found employment while others paid exorbitant fees to illegal recruiters to be able to work in Syria.
The Philippines is one of the world’s top labor-exporting nations with about 8.6 million skilled and unskilled workers scattered abroad.
Early this week, some 280 Filipinos who fled the armed conflict in Syria were repatriated to Manila as Philippine officials try to convince more to leave as the security situation in that country deteriorates.
The Philippine government has repeatedly asked Filipinos to leave while airports and exit routes remain open as Syria grapples with a civil war that has left thousands killed since it erupted last year.
Amid wide-ranging sanctions and condemnations by the international community and its Western and Middle East allies, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad continues to press military offensives against civilians and rebels demanding for his resignation and government reforms.
An estimated 3,000 to 4,000 Filipinos will be left behind in Syria once the 600 returns home to the Philippines, Hernandez said.
He said the government will continue to convince the remaining Filipinos to join the DFA-organized mass evacuation to get them out of harm’s way.
Since Manila mounted its mandatory repatriation plan last year, the government was able to rescue and bring home more than 2,500 Filipinos workers from Syria. (PNA)