DFA: Some Pinoys with families in Ukraine concerned they’d be forcibly repatriated

Mico Abarro, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 26 2022 09:11 AM | Updated as of Feb 26 2022 01:35 PM

Ukrainian servicemen are seen next to a destroyed armoured vehicle, which they said belongs to the Russian army, outside Kharkiv, Ukraine February 24, 2022. Maksim Levin, Reuters
Ukrainian servicemen are seen next to a destroyed armoured vehicle, which they said belongs to the Russian army, outside Kharkiv, Ukraine February 24, 2022. Maksim Levin, Reuters

MANILA (UPDATED)—The Department of Foreign Affairs said on Saturday that many Filipinos were still reluctant to fly out of Ukraine, despite Russia's ongoing invasion of the country. 

DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers' Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola told ABS-CBN's Teleradyo that 181 out of an estimated 300 Filipinos have been accounted in Ukraine.

Even those among the more than 40 Filipinos in the western city of Lviv have not decided to avail of repatriation, apparently hoping the war between Ukraine and Russia would be resolved quickly. 

"We are encouraging them to please reach out to our people on the ground," Arriola said. "Sana mag-decide na po sila kung gusto nilang umuwi. Pwede na po. Habang kaya pa po namin mag-stay sa Lviv." 

Thirty-seven of those Filipinos traveled all the way from the capital, Kyiv, a distance of some 540 kilometers.

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Arriola added that some Filipinos did not want to contact DFA staff, fearing they would be forcibly brought back to the Philippines. Others hesitated to go home because they have Ukrainian spouses and even children, while some were domestic workers who chose to go with their employers.

The undersecretary acknowledged that even the enforcement of mandatory evacuations may not be enough. 

"Marami po talaga tayong kababayan na ayaw din talaga umuwi kahit nagbobombahan na," she said. "Nakita po natin ’yan sa Syria. Until now madaming Filipino pa din doon. Kahit sa Libya po." 

Arriola called on Filipinos to reach out to the DFA through Philippine ambassadors in Ukraine, as well as the OFW Help Facebook page

This came as Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Friday that Russian forces were expected to attack the capital Kyiv by nightfall. Residents of the capital were already advised by the defense ministry to make petrol bombs to help in repelling Russian invaders. 

- With a report from Reuters.