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Snail-paced repatriation of OFWs in Syria hit; PH govt. urged 'to draw evacuation and repatriation lessons' from MENA upheavals

On December 27, 2011

A Filipino migrants’ rights group today scored the Philippine government for what it says a ‘snail-paced repatriation of OFWs’ since the conflict escalated in Syria early this year.

Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator and Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan (KGS – Brotherhood in the Middle East) spokesman John Leonard Monterona said the repatriation efforts of the concerned PH government agencies is still wanting after almost a year of conflict in war-torn Syria.

Monterona, citing official data from the Department of Foreign Affairs, noted as of 2nd week of December, there were about 300 OFWs were repatriated from Syria. “This is translated to about 1.7% out of the 17,000 estimated numbers of OFWs in Syria.”

“We would also note that the recall of PH Ambassador to Syria Wilfredo Cuyugan hasn’t made a difference who was replaced by Amb. Ricardo Endaya, who is, according to the DFA, more experienced in govt. repatriation efforts,” Monterona averred.

Monterona added that PH government failed to solve the constrains confronting the govt. repatriation efforts or at least find ways to effect an efficient and economical repatriation program for OFWs caught in war-torn Syria.

“For one, the PH govt. agencies failed to convince the employers of legally deployed OFWs, though their number is too small compared to undocumented OFWs, to let them go out of Syria by issuing a corresponding exit visas,” Monterona citing this as one of the constraints affecting the govt. repatriation efforts.

As to the case of around 13,000 to 15,000 undocumented OFWs in Syria, Monterona said the PH govt. could have early send a high-level delegation to diplomatically request and arrange with the Syrian authorities the mass repatriation of OFWs citing humanitarian consideration amid the escalation of conflict feared to be on a brink of a civil war.

Monterona also cited the PH embassy officials’ failure to accurately assess the political situation in Syria. “There could be no timely and efficient repatriation effort by the PH govt. if in the first place there was a misreading of the peace and order situation in Syria when the conflict had just erupted and even ‘til now.”

Monterona also noted the PH govt. itself often cited lack or unavailability of funds or the bureaucratic constraint in releasing the funds as hindrance to an efficient repatriation program.

“The bureaucratic process in releasing the evacuation and repatriation funds must be rationalized, streamlined in recognition of the urgent need to secure the safety and well being of our OFWs in war-torn countries,” Monterona suggested.

Monterona urges the Department of Foreign Affairs to review its alert-level classifications and its corresponding advisories and be more proactive in its evacuation and repatriation program.

“The Egyptian uprising, the Libya turmoil, and the current upheavals in Syria must teach PH govt. agencies useful lessons in developing an effective and efficient evacuation and repatriation blue print,” Monterona concluded.

Written by:

John Leonard Monterona
Migrante Middle East regional coordinator
Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan (KGS) Spokesperson