Malacañang on Thursday said a total of 409 Filipinos have already been evacuated from conflict-torn Sudan.
The Presidential Communications Office said of the number, 335 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and family members left Khartoum on April 26 for Egypt via Wadi Halfa Highway.
Meanwhile, 35 OFWs and 15 students were safely evacuated to Egypt with the help of Filipinos in Sudan as well as personnel from the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW).
This, as the Philippine government raised Alert Level 3 status, which urges voluntary evacuation, in the African nation due to the violence that has reportedly left over 500 people dead.
An official from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) earlier said the number of OFWs who have been evacuated was at 350.
“Ngayon, as we speak, may pito kaming bus, almost 350 na papuntang border ng [Egypt],” DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Eduardo de Vega said in an interview on Unang Balita.
(Right now, as we speak, we have seven buses with almost 350 Filipinos heading to the border to Egypt.)
Aside from the 350, De Vega said some 50 Filipinos were evacuated by the DFA from Sudan the other day.
Philippine Ambassador to Egypt Ezzedin Tago, in the same Unang Balita interview, said there were also 23 Filipinos who were transported by their employers to the other border.
Strict border control
De Vega said they were facing problems in crossing the borders as authorities are strict in allowing people to enter Egypt and most of the Filipino evacuees either have expired passports or do not have passports at all.
Due to this, De Vega said the process of entering Egypt is taking 24 to 48 hours for Filipinos.
This was confirmed by Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople in an interview on Super Radyo dzBB on Thursday morning.
"'Yung border control, mas mahigpit na ngayon [Border control is much stricter now]," said Ople, who was in Egypt.
According to De Vega, Egyptian authorities are already accepting visas on arrival as a requirement to cross the border.
De Vega said DFA is planning to house the Filipino evacuees in a hotel in Aswan, Egypt.
Alert Level 3
Meanwhile, the Philippine Embassy in Egypt announced on Wednesday that it has raised Alert Level 3 status in Sudan due to the conflict.
“The public is informed that Alert Level 3 (Voluntary Repatriation Evacuation) has been raised for the whole of the Sudan region due to the ongoing political situation in the country,” it said.
“In this regard, the public is assured that the Philippine Embassy in Cairo is continuously monitoring the situation while providing repatriation assistance to Filipinos in Sudan,” it added.
According to the DFA, there could be around 700 Filipinos in Sudan and most of them are undocumented.
Earlier, De Vega said there are no Filipino casualties in Sudan and the person who was reportedly injured before is already in better condition.
The violence in Sudan erupted between the forces of the two generals who seized power in a 2021 coup: the army chief and his deputy, who commands the powerful paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.
The Sudanese armed forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) previously agreed to a three-day ceasefire that was due to expire late on Thursday. The military has shown willingness to extend the ceasefire.
Since fighting erupted on April 15, air strikes and artillery have killed at least 512 people, wounded nearly 4,200, destroyed hospitals and limited food distribution in the vast nation where a third of the 46 million people were already reliant on humanitarian aid.
The crisis has sent growing numbers of refugees across Sudan's borders, with the United Nations refugee agency estimating 270,000 people could flee into South Sudan and Chad alone.
Foreigners evacuated from Khartoum have described bodies littering streets, buildings on fire, residential areas turned into battlefields and youths roaming with large knives. —with Reuters/KBK, GMA Integrated News