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Pinoy Abroad

Pinoy workers banned from Iraq as DFA raises alert level to 3

February 1, 2012 10:10am
(UPDATED 11:00 a.m.) - Amid the recent bombings in Iraq, the Philippine government on Wednesday raised the alert level there to "3," encouraging voluntary repatriation of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in affected areas.
 
The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said alert level "3" entails an automatic ban on the deployment of Filipino workers there.
 
In a news release on Wednesday, the DFA said: "Under Alert Level 3, Filipinos who wish to leave Iraq are offered voluntary repatriation at government expense." 

"A ban on the further deployment of OFWs is automatically imposed in coordination with the Department of Labor and Employment. Filipinos are likewise advised not to travel to the affected areas while alert level 3 is in effect," the DFA added. 
 
The areas covered by the alert level are all regions of Iraq except the northern autonomous region of Kurdistan, near the country's border with Turkey.
 
Based on the embassy registry, there are 192 OFWs in Iraq's Kurdish Region and 279 in the rest of the country, the DFA said.
 

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Philippine embassy officials will meet with the employers of Filipinos who will choose to remain in Iraq and review the security protocols of those companies.
 
The DFA explained that the alert level stemmed from the "higher-than-expected surge in terrorist and sectarian violence" in Iraq after the withdrawal of United States military forces in December 2011.
 
DFA Secretary Albert del Rosario ordered the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad to contact and urge all remaining OFWs there to avail of the repatriation offer.
 
In a statement last week, Del Rosario said, “We had expected some increase in violence after the US Forces pullout, but not to the extent that it has happened.” 
 
He said there were 29 “incidents of violence” between January 1 and 15 this year, 14 of which happened in the capital, Baghdad.
 
While nearly 4,000 Filipinos were secured by the US military, the US troop pullout has significantly reduced the number of Filipinos in Iraq and has also resulted in a diminution of their security, the DFA noted.
 
"In addition, we further believe that there may be undocumented Filipinos working as household service workers  and we are, therefore, fully committed to ensuring the safety and welfare of all our countrymen in Iraq," Del Rosario said.
 
Del Rosario said the challenge after the US pullout is to find out how many Filipinos are left, where they are, and the quality of their security.
 
"We believe that their security may have become questionable and we may need to take them out of harm's way," he said. - with Rose-An Jessica Dioquino, Nikki Marzoña, VVP, GMA News