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Filipino legislator calls for mandatory repatriation of OFWs in Syria

On February 15, 2012

Filipino legislator calls for mandatory repatriation of OFWs in Syria

Filipino Senator Manny B. Villar is urging his government to evacuate OFWs in Syria before the crises further deteriorates. The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) recently raised the crisis alert level in Syria to “4,” at which point the government is required to evacuate OFWs. So far, only 771 out of an estimated 10,000 to 17,000 OFWs have been repatriated by the DFA and the International Organization for Migration.

Migrants caught in the middle of MENA uprisings face unique risks because they often lack relationships with any particular national group, and thus do not have access to the social or political connections that can function as safeguards. They are also more vulnerable to charges of espionage or disloyalty, as well as to exploitation. If they are abandoned by their own nations, as became the fate of many sub-Saharan Africans in Libya and Yemen, their prospects are entirely dependent upon locals fighting for their own lives and upon chronically underfunded international organizations.

Following the Russian and Chinese veto of the UN resolution on Syria last week, Migrante International chairperson Garry Martinez also implored the immediate evacuation of OFWs. Martinez insists direct diplomatic efforts with the Syrian government must replace the current negotiations with individual employers and private agencies in order to streamline the repatriation process.

The last year has given the Filipino government much experience in emergency evacuation, as thousands OFWs from Egypt, Libya, and Iraq have been repatriated at the government’s expense. The Philippines and all nations with migrant populations in Syria must work quickly and efficiently to ensure the safety of their citizens; Migrant Rights will continue to monitor their maneuvers over the next several weeks.