Unsystematic, sporadic repatriation efforts in Syria slammed

Global alliance of overseas Filipinos and families Migrante International today said that more intensified and systematic repatriation efforts should be in place as US-NATO and the Arab League are positioning to strike war-torn Syria.

According to Migrante International secretary-general Gina Esguerra, repatriation efforts are at best sporadic and in trickles. “The repatriation process is still slow despite the very clear and present danger to our kababayans. We fail to see a system in the government’s efforts. No blueprint is available to Filipinos there. Even the data on the number of OFWs to be repatriated are conflicting.”

She said that they have also received reports that OFWs have been awaiting repatriation for as long as a year. As per data from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), at least 1,000 Filipinos have registered for repatriation since early last year. As of this posting, however, the government is yet to report if OFWs in OWWA’s list have been brought back to the Philippines. “We have also talked to disappointed returned OFWs and their families who are complaining that it took the government a year facilitate their repatriation.”

Esguerra also said that the government has been providing unreliable and conflicting data as to the total number of Filipinos in Syria. Government data ranges from 17,000 to as much as 30,000 OFWs, with the number of documented OFWs’ ranging from barely a hundred to thousands. “This reflects the government’s inefficiency and disorganized system of repatriation. We are gravely concerned that reports of repatriation are coming in trickles, far from what the present situation in Syria demands.”

There has been one reported OFW death in Syria. Domestic worker Violeta Cortez was found dead under mysterious circumstances after she repeatedly appealed for immediate repatriation in a local radio program here. According to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), it would take them a month or more to repatriate Cortez’ remains.

Gov’t making excuses?

Esguerra also slammed the government for “making excuses” and “justifying its slow repatriation process” by saying that OFWs do not wish to be repatriated or that they are finding it difficult to shoulder deployment costs to disgruntled employers.

“All these do not give good reason for the slow process. It was the government that imposed Alert Level 4, they were the ones who issued a blanket forced repatriation policy, the issues they are raising now should have been taken into account before they enforced the policy,” she said.

 Condemn impending military intervention

Migrante International called on the Philippine government to make a stand and condemn impending military intervention is Syria.

The US-NATO forces, under the guise of the United Nations and Arab League, are now gearing for military strikes on Syria just as it did in Libya. ‘As in Libya, the looming military bombardment will not be a ‘humanitarian mission’ but an imperialist attack on Syrian nationals and residents with the aim to install a puppet government in Syria,” Esguerra said.

The Syrian government has a strategic alliance with Shezbollah, the national liberation movement in Lebanon, and with anti-imperialist and anti-Zionist oil-rich Iran, both with strained relations with the United States.  ###