MANILA - The Philippine Embassy in Vienna, Austria on Saturday said the number of undocumented Filipinos using Croatia as jump off point to enter Europe remains a challenge.
“Karamihan sa kanila nanggagaling sa Middle East at namalagi sa Croatia without proper documentation so they are more vulnerable kasi 'yung kanilang employment contract at papers ‘di ayos,” said Ambassador Maria Cleofe Natividad.
(Most of them are from the Middle East and are staying in Croatia without proper documentation so they are more vulnerable because their employment contract and papers are incomplete.)
During the Laging Handa virtual press briefing, Natividad admitted that this poses a challenge to the embassy. She said many overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from the Middle East are looking for opportunities in Europe.
“Ang entry point will be Croatia pagkatapos lumilipat sila sa ibang bansa na mas maganda pa ang oportunidad tulad sa Italia, Alemanya so parang nagiging jump off point,” said Natividad, who also serves as the Philippines' non-resident envoy to Croatia.
(Their entry point is Croatia then they transfer to other countries which hold bigger opportunities for them like in Italy or Germany.)
There are around 600 Filipinos in Croatia, and many are scared to reveal their current status to the embassy, she said.
“Ang aking tala, nasa 50 ang ating kababayan ang ‘di ayos ang mga papeles at ito ay lumalaki pa,” she said.
(Based on my count, there are about 50 Filipinos with incomplete paper and the number is still increasing.)
She said undocumented OFWs in Croatia are among the most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the embassy is now trying to repatriate them.
“Umuwi muna sa Pilipinas at ayusin… kung kailangang maredeploy, gawin sa tamang paraan,” she said.
(Go home first to the Philippines. If there is a need to be redployed, do it the right way.)
Natividad said the embassy in Vienna also has jurisdiction over Filipinos in Croatia, Slovenia and Slovakia.
The embassy continues to monitor and assist Filipinos from these countries who were affected by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Aside from about 30,000 Filipino-Austrians, there are also around 6,000 Filipinos in Austria who are all documented, she said.
They have recovered quickly with the help of the community, she added.
Meanwhile, the ambassador is looking forward to the 75th anniversary of the Philippines and Austria’s bilateral relations next year. She said they will be working hard to improve trade and investment relations and hopes for the redeployment of Filipino workers in the health and IT sectors once pandemic conditions improve.