IOM to charter flight for over 200 Pinoys in Syria

By Maxxy Santiago, ABS-CBN Middle East News Bureau

Posted at Sep 05 2012 09:23 AM | Updated as of Sep 06 2012 02:53 AM

KUWAIT – Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario met with Syrian Foreign Affairs Minister Walid Al-Muallem, in a bid to expedite the repatriation of over 5,200 Filipino workers who have been caught in the conflict in Syria.

PH Rapid Response Team Head, Philippine Ambassador Ricardo Endaya with the wards at the Philippine Embassy in Damascus

The meeting resulted in the waiving of the exit visas of over 200 Filipinos who sought refuge at the Filipino Workers Resource Center in Damascus.

Del Rosario arrived in Damascus on Tuesday together with DFA Undersecretary Rafael Seguis.

The Philippine Rapid Response Team, tasked by the Philippine Government to help extricate Filipinos in the war-torn country, disclosed to ABS-CBN Middle East that the International Organization for Migration (IOM) will charter a flight to the Philippines for over 200 Filipinos who are now in the halfway house. The IOM has already sent a request to Geneva and the wards in the shelter are set to be repatriated to the Philippines in the coming days.

This was also confirmed by Del Rosario during a phone interview on the ANC. “By the end of this week, we are talking with the International Organization for Migration who will furnish us with a chartered flight. We don’t want to leave anyone behind. We hope to make sure that we’re able to contact everyone,” stated Del Rosario.

Filipinos caught in the crossfire continue to run to the Philippine Embassy in Damascus to seek refuge and with the hope of being repatriated soon to the Philippines. Some came from Hama, Idlib, Homs, Daraa and Aleppo where violence has intensified.

“As of today, we have a total of 278 wards at the Filipino Workers Resource Center and 11 will be leaving for Manila tonight,” said Ambassador Ricardo Endaya, the head of the Philippine Rapid Response Team.

According to the DFA, over 2,000 OFWs have been repatriated from Syria since the Philippine Government’s mandatory repatriation was implemented in December last year.

The Philippine government has so far spent a total of $3 million for the repatriation of OFWs from war-torn Syria.

Del Rosario will be flying back to the Philippines on Wednesday afternoon while the Philippine Rapid Response Team led by Endaya will stay behind in Syria to work together with Philippine Embassy officials to oversee the speedy repatriation of OFWs.