photo courtesy of links.org.au

Foreign affairs undersecretary Rafael Seguis said 3,735 more Filipinos are ready to leave Syria as internal tension in the country is becoming ‘irreparable.’

The DFA official added this is the ‘largest’ number of Filipinos who have sought to return home after the country launched its mandatory repatriation plan in March 2011 when a violent civil war erupted in Syria against its president Bashar al-Assad.

Seguis said around 1,493 Filipinos are scheduled to fly home in the coming weeks, this when their documentation requirements, particularly exit visas, are processed.

Also this Wednesday around 26 workers will return from Syria, bringing a total number of 2,124 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) repatriated so far, DFA said.

“My own assessment is that it’s going to be a long, drawn-out internal conflict among the Syrian people,” Seguis said in a report, adding the country has already spent at least $4 million for the repatriation of Filipino workers in Syria.

Said government expenses are for ‘refund of the deployment cost to employers, penalties, exit visa fees, and airfare.’

According to Philippine embassy records, there are more than 7,000 Filipinos who are still trapped in war-torn Syria, particularly in Damascus, Homs, Daraa, Aleppo, and Idlib.

The DFA reiterated that OFWs should leave Syria ‘while there are still flights out of the country and exit borders are still passable.’

Meanwhile Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario has left the country yesterday bound for Syria to personally assist the repatriation of Filipino workers.