Filipino illegals opted to stay in Libya to get jobs, say repatriated OFWs

Published by rudy Date posted on March 14, 2011

MANILA, Philippines — An undisclosed number of undocumented Filipino migrant workers have opted to stay behind in rebellion-torn Libya, where job prospects are supposedly better than here in the Philippines.

This was disclosed to the Philippine Daily Inquirer by some Filipino workers who have returned from the north African country.

One of them, Sancho Cercado, quoted members of a Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) team overseeing the repatriation of Filipinos, as having said many “illegals” had decided to remain in Tripoli.

“Some undocumented workers had claimed flying back to the Philippines was not a good idea. They apparently believe they could make more money in Libya,” said Cercado, former land surveyor of the Waha Oil Company.

Cercado, 61, returned to the country last week from Tripoli with 10 other Filipino staff members of Waha, his employer for over 18 years.

Waha’s job site on the Sahara desert lies between the Libyan capital and Benghazi.

Another former Waha employee, who asked not to be named, claimed some undocumented Filipinos were hired by the firm as “contractual employees.”

“In Tripoli, some of the illegals make a living doing the usual odd jobs. Others are employed like other professionals,” said the source.

Two other repatriates interviewed for this story said some of their friends, also undocumented workers, were supposed to board the government-chartered Greek ship MV Ionian Queen, which last week picked up over 1,800 Filipino evacuees from Benghazi port.

But “they changed their minds at the last minute. They did not board the ferry bound for Crete and take connecting flights to Manila via the Middle East,” said one of the evacuees, who used to work at the Marriott hotel in Tripoli.

Earlier, the DFA disclosed that on the ship’s second trip to the Greek island, less than 700 Filipinos boarded the vessel, which has a total capacity of 1,720 passengers.

This reporter tried but failed to reach Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary J. Eduardo Malaya, also spokesman of the DFA, for comment.

Meanwhile, the DFA said personnel of the Philippine embassy in Tripoli were still on “mop-up operations” in various parts of Libya, as of Monday.

Along with the augmentation teams sent by the DFA and the Department of Labor and Employment, embassy staff were “winding down their operations.”

As of 4:30 a.m. of March 14, a total of 8,265 Filipinos had returned to the country from Libya.

“Actually, they could be close to 9,000. But some foreign employers did not coordinate with us in the repatriation of their Filipino workers,” said Carmelita Dimzon, head of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.

On Monday, another 161 Filipinos were scheduled to return to the country, according to the media affairs office of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

They were listed on the manifests of the following commercial flights: Philippine Airlines flight no. 733/3:50 a.m. (33 passengers); Gulf Air 154/10:25 a.m. (53); Etihad Airways 424/4:45 p.m. (60); and Philippine Airlines 731/6:20 p.m. (15).

Of the 161 passengers, 113 were repatriated by OWWA while the rest were handled by the International Organization for Migration.

On Sunday, a total of 210 Filipino workers arrived at the NAIA, according to OWWA records.

When interviewed, Dimzon said OWWA had so far released P82.2 million in emergency financial grants to over 8,200 repatriates.

“It’s not a big amount, but they will have to make do with that. It’s only temporary relief,” she said.

In another development, the DFA said it has updated its contingency plans for some 1,600 Filipino migrant workers based in Yemen.

Earlier, DFA Undersecretary for administration Rafael Seguis said an “advance team” from the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, which has been exercising consular jurisdiction over Yemen, was deployed to Sanaa to “assess the security situation on the ground.”

Seguis also said the same team has been making “necessary preparations to ensure the safety and well-being of Filipinos should the increasing tensions there get worse.”

The DFA has raised the alert level for Yemen from No. 1, or heightened alertness, to No. 2, which is restriction of movements.

Seguis said they had asked Filipinos in Yemen to “restrict their movements to only those which are absolutely essential.”

He also advised them to voluntarily leave the Middle East country.

In a report to the home office, embassy Charge d’Affaires Ezzedin Tago said that the contingency plan for Yemen has been in place since Feb. 25.

The plan covered “designation of community coordinators, identified convergence, relocation, holding, and evacuation sites, and resource inventory of transportation and communications,” among other requirements, said Tago.

Yemen is located south of South Arabia. The Gulf of Aden separates it from the east African states of Somalia and Djibouti. –Jerry E. Esplanada, Philippine Daily Inquirer

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