Global alliance of overseas Filipinos Migrante International today slammed US military intervention in Iraq and Libya, saying that the US government’s continuous vested interest in the Middle East-North Africa (MENA) region is the real cause of the unending conflicts in the said countries.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) recently raised the crisis alert in Iraq and Libya to Alert Level 3, or voluntary repatriation for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). Alert Level 3 also means the imposition of a total deployment ban of OFWs to Iraq and Libya.
The PH government first enforced a total ban to Iraq in 2003 during the Gulf War. In 2004, Iraqi insurgents fighting the US-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein kidnapped OFW Angelo dela Cruz and condemned then Pres. Arroyo’s support for the US. In 2011, the total ban was partially lifted to allow the deployment of OFWs particularly in US military bases. Another total ban was imposed in 2012, and it was only last year that the total ban was lifted allowing the processing of job orders from Iraq. There are currently approximately 10,000 OFWs in Iraq.
“Dela Cruz had said then that the conflict in Iraq will not simply end because what the Iraqis want is for US troops to leave. The situation is still the same now. Since the overthrow of Hussein and the installation of a US-backed government, violence in Iraq has erupted time and again. For as long as the US government refuses to leave Iraq to fend for its own, conflict in the region will not end. The most recent Iran-Iraq conflict is a civil war waiting to happen, with the US government at its helm,” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson.
Iran is a staunch ally of the US. US Pres. Barrack Obama had already hinted of a possible military action targeting Iraq to support Iran. Presently, the US aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush and its stike group have been spotted in the Arabian Sea, presumably waiting to act on Obama’s orders.
Meanwhile, Libya, where an estimated 13,122 OFWs are located, has largely remained in conflict after rebels who ousted Pres. Moammar Gadhafi later formed militias. At the height of the Libya civil war in 2011, the US government was accused of funding terrorists to sow violence and conflict in the country. Libya’s Gadhafi was a known anti-imperialist leader and Libya has always been close to Russia, US’ rival.
Martinez pointed out the PH government’s lack of preparedness and blueprint measures during the conflict in Libya, causing thousands upon thousands of OFWs to be placed in grave danger. “We fear that this recent announcement of an Alert Level 3 may yet be another knee-jerk reaction. It is one thing to urge our OFWs to voluntarily sign up for repatriation, and another thing if the DFA, given its track record, is even prepared to do so.”
Martinez also called on the PH government to bare its plans for a possible massive repatriation of OFWs from Iraq and Libya should the situation in the region escalate.
“Like before, OFWs in crisis-riddled areas are caught between the devil and the turbulent sea. They left despite risks posed in working in countries like Iraq and Libya because of worsening domestic unemployment under the Aquino administration. And like before, a number of them will surely opt to stay because no jobs await them should they decide to return. Apart from repatriation, the PH government should disclose how it plans to provide sufficient employment and livelihood for the possible return of thousands of our OFWs.”
“Welfare and protection for our OFWs in conflict situations is a life-and-death situation, it should not just be mere PR. Our OFWs will continue to be in precarious conditions in these countries due to US interventionist wars to protect their vested interests, and Aquino’s dogged support for the US continue to place our OFWs in dangerous situations. ” he said.
To genuinely address the problem of forced migration, economic policies should focus on developing the national economy by advancing local industries, agriculture and basic services, not labor export, Martinez said. Migrante International fully supports the call and struggle for national industrialization and genuine land reform as the ultimate solution to the problem of forced migration and to end the labor export program. ###