Government halts OFW deployment to Syria

Published by rudy Date posted on April 28, 2011

MANILA, Philippines – Filipino workers were stopped from going to Syria yesterday.

However, Labor Undersecretary Danilo Cruz said the deployment ban only covers newly hired workers, not those returning to their previous employment.

“Since it’s just an alert level 2, returning workers are still allowed to leave the country,” he said.

Cruz said the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) has already ceased from processing the deployment of workers to Syria.

“With the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) already raising the crisis alert to level 2, the POEA immediately issued the advisory restricting deployment of workers to Syria,” he said.

Cruz said POEA is now checking recruitment agencies that have deployed a large number of workers so they could help locate Filipinos working in Syria.

“We need the help of the agencies to locate the Filipinos, as well as in shouldering the cost of repatriation in case the need for it arises,” he said.

Cruz expressed confidence that the government would be able to work out a plan for their immediate repatriation.

However, as of yesterday the POEA has not received any request from Filipinos in Syria for repatriation, he added.

Based on government records, over 800 out of the estimated 17,000 Filipinos in Syria are members of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

A majority of Filipino workers in Syria are undocumented.

The DFA raised yesterday the crisis alert level in Syria to alert level 2, which entails restriction of movement in Syria, avoiding large crowds and areas of protest, and encouraging Filipinos to voluntarily relocate or leave at their own cost if they have no pressing need to remain.

Non-essential and non-urgent travel is discouraged, including travel for tourism purposes.

Only returning workers will be allowed to fly to Syria.

The Philippine embassy has been closely monitoring developments in the country.

It has briefed the Filipino community on the embassy’s contingency plans.

Ambassador to Damascus Wilfredo Cuyugan said they have asked Filipinos in Syria to actively monitor developments.

“Keep their communication lines open with the embassy and their community coordinators, and inform them of their whereabouts, as well as restrict their movements only to those which are necessary,” he said.

“We also asked them to stock up on basic necessities such as food, water, and prescribed medicine, as well as have flashlights, mobile phones and radios available and in good condition. They should also have important documents such as passports and money handy.”

Around 17,000 Filipinos are in Syria.

The embassy has updated contingency plans for community members.

These plans can be readily activated during times of crisis. –-Mayen Maylin (The Philippine Star) with Pia Lee-Brago

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