Why many Filipinos refuse to leave Iraq

By Maxxy Santiago, ABS-CBN Middle East News Bureau

Posted at Jun 03 2015 06:20 PM | Updated as of Jun 04 2015 08:06 AM

KUWAIT - Over a thousand Filipinos are still in Iraq despite the call of the Philippine government for a mandatory repatriation following the attacks on two hotels there last week.

"Jenny", not her real name, has been working in Baghdad for about three years. The car bombing attacks last Friday was just near her employer's home. But Jenny said they are used to it already.

"Syempre po sa hirap ng buhay po sa Pilipinas din, pag umuwi ako walang ipon. May pinapaaral ako, may pamilya akong sinusuportahan. Kaya po parang wala po talagang plano kasi po ang hirap po talagang humanap ng mabubuting amo ngayon," said Jenny.

But those who want to come home can't do so because their passports are with their employers.

"Kung makita nyo man itong hiring ngayon sa Iraq, huwag na kayong pumunta dito, kasi hindi mo masasabi ang kaligtasan natin dito, pag gusto mo nang umuwi, pahirapan pa, may gagawin pa sa yo ang amo mo, magiging kawawa ka lang dito," said "Diego".

The Philippine government raised alert level 4, which calls for a mandatory repatriation of Filipinos in Iraq, aside from Kurdistan region, last June 19, 2014.

"Ang nangyaring pagsabog nong Biyernes at iba’t-ibang mga insidente ng karahasan sa Baghdad at mga karatig pook ay isa sa mga dahilan kung bakit nananatili sa alert level 4 ang Iraq," Chargé d'affaires Elmer Cato said.

Cato urged remaining Filipinos in Iraq to evacuate before the situation worsens.

"Nakahanda po ang ating embahada dito sa Baghdad na tulungan po ang mga nais lumikas na makabalik po sa Pilipinas," he said.

For those who have no plans of leaving Baghdad, Cato urged them to register with the embassy.

"Kung maari ay magsipag register po sila sa embassy para alam po namin kung saan sila hahanapin o kokontakin kung sakaling kailangan na po tayong lahat ay sapilitang magsilikas," he said.

Meanwhile, alert level 2 is still in place in Kurdistan where an estimated one thousand Filipinos are based.

"Nandito po ako ngayon sa Kurdistan, Erbil, Wala po kayong dapat ikatakot dito, safe dito, maayos, walang giyera," said OFW Joverlyn Agawin.