MANILA (2nd UPDATE) — The first batch of Filipinos have been evacuated from violence-wracked Sudan, the Department of Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday.
Ten days of urban combat between Sudan's warring generals have killed hundreds, wounded thousands and sparked a mass exodus of foreigners.
The first batch in the Philippine government’s evacuation efforts included some 50 Filipinos, said DFA spokesperson Teresita Daza.
“As of 8 p.m. yesterday, the first batch left Khartoum by land,” she told reporters in a text message
From Khartoum, they will be traveling to Aswan then to Cairo in Egypt, she said.
There are at least 696 registered Filipinos in Sudan, around 156 of whom have travel documents and were prepared to be evacuated at any given time, the DFA said on Monday.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said the government is also looking at the possibility of bringing Filipinos out of Sudan via routes to Saudi Arabia or Djibouti.
“Ang mahirap ay even the land routes are not completely safe. Even mga airports ay binomba pa so hindi talaga magamit so we are still trying to find alternative ways,” Marcos Jr. said in a recorded video posted on the Presidential Communications Office websites.
“We are watching the situation very, very closely to see if there’s a window of opportunity na mailabas natin ang mga Philippine nationals natin,” he said.
(What's difficult is even the land routes are not completely safe. Even the airports were bombed and cannot be used, so we are still trying to find alternative ways. We are watching the situation very, very closely to see if there’s a window of opportunity to get Filipinos out.)
Migrant Workers Secretary Susa Ople will travel to areas near Sudan to oversee repatriation efforts, the President said.
“Sec. Ople is on her way to the area para kung sakali man na matuloy yung sinasabi na 72 hour ceasefire, eh makapag-take advantage tayo, mailabas natin mga tao natin,” he said.
(Sec. Ople is on her way to the area so we can take advantage of the area if the 72-hour pushes through.)
Some 300 Filipinos have said they wanted to come home from Sudan, according to DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers' Affairs Eduardo de Vega.
He urged them to contact Philippine authorities first before moving out of Sudan.
"Merong mga umuuwi on their own or lumilikas kasi may mga amo silang sinasamahan sila. Ang payo namin, mag-email muna sa Embassy kasi baka yung amo may visa baka kayo wala, kung pupunta sa Egypt. So ayusin po natin," the official said in a TeleRadyo interview.
(There are some who are trying to come home on their own or are moving with their employers. Please email us first because you employer might have a visa to enter Egypt while you don't. Let us help you first.)
Sudan is one of the world's poorest countries, with a history of military coups.
Fighting broke out in Sudan on April 15 between forces loyal to army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his deputy turned rival Mohamed Hamdan Daglo, who commands the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
At least 427 people have been killed and more than 3,700 wounded, according to UN agencies, and many are now grappling with acute shortages of water, food, medicines and fuel as well as power and internet blackouts.
Late Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Burhan and Daglo had agreed to a 72-hour ceasefire.
More than 4,000 people have fled the country in foreign-organized evacuations that began on Saturday.
— With reports from Agence France-Presse; Benise Balaoing, ABS-CBN News