The Syrian government finally allowed 225 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who are temporarily seeking shelter at the Philippine Embassy building in capital Damascus to return home without the issuance of exit visa clearances.
This was announced by Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Sec. Albert Del Rosario on Wednesday, also expressing gratitude that their negotiation with Syria was a success.
Migrants’ rights group based in Middle East also welcomed the Syrian’s move favoring the trapped Filipino workers, however with a reaction that DFA top officials should have done this negotiation last year.
“Public and various OFW groups have been demanding the DFA to better assess the then deteriorating peace and order situation in Syria so that an appropriate evacuation and repatriation plan have promptly been implemented by the PH post and the DFA in Syria without waiting the situation to deteriorate,” Monterona said in a statement to Manila Channel.
The group added that ‘better late than never’ is not even appropriate to describe the success of the Philippine government in dealing with the Assad government as the lives and safety of the stranded OFWs have been so compromised.
Monterona said that with the Syria government waiving the exit visa clearances, the kin in the Philippines expect their stranded OFWs immediate repatriation.
He added that aside from repatriation efforts by the PH government there are a considerable numbers of OFWs still trapped in Syria.
“To our conservative estimates, there are still around 2,000 OFWs trapped all over Syria, awaiting to be rescued and evacuated, aside from those 225 OFWs housed at the PH embassy in Damascus,” Monterona added.
Also the group urged the DFA to ‘continue explore’ with the Syrian government on how the remaining trapped OFWs all over Syria could be rescued and evacuated to safer places and eventually be repatriated
“It’s not yet mission accomplished. Evacuation efforts to secure our fellow OFWs in safe refuges are still wanting, and it’s the most difficult task.”