Del Rosario in Syria to help repatriate Filipinos
MANILA, Philippines - Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario is on his way to Syria to assist in the repatriation of Filipinos who are trying to flee the country in the wake of months of civil unrest.
“We were given a clear mandate by the President to ensure the safety and welfare of Filipinos in Syria. We want to facilitate the immediate repatriation of as many Filipinos as possible,” Del Rosario said in a Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) statement released on Tuesday, September 4.
The department added that the secretary left for Syria on Monday and will coordinate there with local officials to secure the "safe, immediate and unhampered repatriation" of over 5,000 Filipinos that have asked for help.
Accompanied by special envoy
Del Rosario is accompanied by his Syria special envoy and DFA Undersecretary Rafael Seguis, who traveled to the country on a similar mission last July and was able to bring home 140 kababayans.
The Foreign Affairs Secretary himself also went to Syria twice in April and December of last year to request assistance from the Syrian government to repatriate Filipinos.
A Rapid Response Team, composed of officers and staff from DFA, DOLE and DILG is now stationed in the country to extract Filipinos from conflict areas and speed up the repatriation efforts coordinates by the Philippine Embassy in Damascus.
Over 5,000 Filipinos waiting to return
Before traveling to Syria, Seguis revealed that a total of 5,228 Filipinos are waiting to leave the country but bureaucratic requirements are delaying their return to the Philippines.
Almost 1,500 are having their papers processed and a total of 2,124 have returned since the government ordered a mandatory evacuation of all nationals last December after the outbreak of an uprising against Syrian president Basha al-Assad, according to the DFA.
Other Filipino workers in Syria have fled on their own or with their Syrian employers but the efforts to bring the rest back have been hampered by the lack of documentation of many workers who entered the country illegally. - Rappler.com