270 distressed OFWs evacuated from Syria via Lebanon

By Rhyse Furio, ABS-CBN Middle East News Bureau correspondent

Posted at Dec 13 2012 09:45 AM | Updated as of Dec 13 2012 05:45 PM

BEIRUT, Lebanon – A total of 270 distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from Syria arrived at the Rafik Hariri International Airport in Lebanon.

“Actually, this is the first time that our Filipinos are being evacuated from Syria via Lebanon. So this is the first one, and we’re very happy that there are a lot of them that are able to be included in this evacuation,” said Philippine Ambassador Leah Ruiz.

The Philippine embassy in Syria organized the evacuation due to the ongoing civil unrest in the country. Previously, OFWs were being evacuated directly out of Damascus.

“Amo ko mabait, kaya iniwan na ‘ko sa embassy. Pinauwi na ako. Okay lang sa kanya kasi gulong-gulo doon sa Aleppo, nagsasabugan. Nakikita-kita namin mismo sa tabi-tabi ng mga bahay naming,” said one of the distressed OFWs, Wahida Usman.

Accompanied by officials from the Philippine Embassy in Syria, the evacuees were met in Beirut by staff of Caritas Lebanon Migrants Center and the International Organization for Migration or IOM.

“Based on the request of the government of the Philippines, IOM organized a chartered flight of 270 Filipino nationals coming out of Syria, and IOM will take care usually of all the logistical arrangements, including the assistance at the border and until they leave the country from the airport. In addition, we provide assistance at transit--upon transit and arrival,” explained Othman Belbeisy, IOM Representative to Lebanon and Senior Crisis Coordinator for the Syria crisis.

The IOM also supplied food to the evacuees.

According to Belbeisy, IOM will organize evacuation efforts based on the numbers of distressed OFWs given by the Philippine embassy in Syria.