MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines is dispatching a team to Syria to bring home as many as 9,000 Filipinos still in that country amidst the worsening security situation there, the foreign department said Thursday.
The team from the departments of foreign affairs, labour and interior, will seek to locate the many unregistered Filipino workers in Syria and help them leave the country, spokesman Raul Hernandez said.
"They will do everything possible to contact our people there especially those undocumented OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) so that we can bring them out of harm's way immediately," he told reporters.
The attack on a security headquarters in Damascus that killed three top regime officials including Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's brother-in-law, was "significant" and convinced Manila to dispatch the team, he said.
Hernandez said the team had identified "exit points for mass repatriation" to help the estimated 8,000 to 9,000 Filipinos still in Syria.
Earlier, he said the repatriation of Filipino workers was being hampered by their Syrian employers demanding refunds of as much as $10,000 before they could be allowed to leave.
The Philippines has already repatriated over 1,800 people from Syria.
The government banned Filipinos from working in Syria and ordered a mandatory evacuation of its nationals there in December, some 10 months after an uprising against President Assad broke out.
About nine million Filipinos work around the world, earning more money in a wide range of skilled and unskilled jobs abroad than they could in their impoverished homeland.