Press Release
August 17, 2011

Expatriation Assistance to Pinoy OFWs in Syria Must Be Clearly Defined

Senator Loren Legarda called on the Department of Foreign Affairs to immediately activate a system that will enable Filipinos to leave Syria given the extremely high ongoing risk of violent protests and government crackdown.

In noting the advisory issued by the DFA yesterday, urging Filipinos to leave Syria now, the Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations said the advisory needs to be matched with resources and the system to move them to safer grounds or out of the country immediately.

"The security environment in Syria has the potential to deteriorate rapidly. We cannot afford to make the resources and the assistance available only when options for safe passage and travel are already gone," Legarda said.

"Our Embassy needs to designate forward coordination centers that can provide information and safe haven to those who would like to avail of repatriation assistance. Have these centers been designated and information disseminated already?," Legarda asked.

Legarda also said that the situation in Syria may be more difficult to handle considering that there are reports suggesting that most of the 17,000 Filipino workers in Syria have irregular status. "The first challenge is to provide all the information to them. You cannot convince our workers to leave unless the government assures and clarifies to them the security situation, the repatriation plans and options, and the procedures for their repatriation. Above all, we need to tell them what options they have in the country when they get back."

"Other countries have already issued advisories with detailed information on exit routes and the security situation in affected cities. Such details will enable our migrant workers to understand and appreciate the risks they are facing. We should do no less in making these information and plans available," Legarda concluded.

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