OFWs in Syria urged to heed call for repatriation-A A +A
Monday, January 2, 2012
MALACANANG reiterated Monday its appeal to Filipinos in Syria to heed calls for mandatory repatriation after only 490 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) of the total 17,000 have been repatriated since tension began in March.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario flew to Damascus in Syria to personally facilitate the repatriation of some 4,000 Filipinos in the wake of escalating violence in connection with the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.
"We would like to ask the Filipinos in Syria whether you are documented or undocumented to heed the appeal of the Philippine government," Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said. "The [Department of Foreign Affairs] secretary is there right now and we would like to ask them to cooperate to ensure their safety and that’s the only purpose why we are appealing to them. We want to make sure that all Filipinos should be accounted for.
Ninety to 95 percent of Filipinos in Syria are believed to be undocumented, thus making it difficult to repatriate them.
Last December 22, the DFA raised the crisis alert level in Syria to “4”, thus, calling for the mandatory repatriation of Filipinos there amid the escalating tension there.
Lacierda commended del Rosario for personally overseeing the welfare of Filipinos in strife-torn Syria despite his old age.
"It shows that this government is serious in making sure that the safety of all the Filipinos is paramount in our agenda with respect to OFWs in Syria. That’s how seriously we take their safety. It shows how age does not matter insofar as Secretary Del Rosario is concerned," Lacierda said, referring to del Rosario who is 72 years old.
Del Rosario earlier reported that the situation in Syria's capital remains on high alert following the back-to-back car bombings last December 23.
He has ordered diplomat to proceed to Syria to oversee efforts by the Philippine Embassy to convince the 4,557 registered Filipinos to heed the government's call for mandatory repatriation.
In a statement released late Monday afternoon, the DFA related that del Rosario already met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, Deputy Foreign Minister Ahmad Arnous, and other Syrian officials.
“Secretary del Rosario requested the Ministry’s assistance in further updating the Philippine Embassy in Damascus’ database on the deployment of overseas Filipinos across the country,” said the DFA. “This is in order to determine their exact location and other information on their deployment throughout Syria’s 13 governorates."
The DFA also asked the Philippine Honorary Consuls in Aleppo and Idlib and Homs as well as Filipino community leaders, local media, and International Organization for Migration for assistance to help inform Filipinos of the mandatory repatriation order.
Asked if there is a need to need to cut the political ties with the Syrian government amid violence, Lacierda deferred the matter to the Foreign Affairs secretary. (Jill Beltran/AMN/Sunnex)