At least 340 Filipinos who were safely evacuated from conflict-hit Sudan are now traveling to Egypt, Secretary Susan Ople of the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) said Friday.
Ople said land travel takes roughly 15 hours from Khartoum, Sudan, to Egypt's Argeen border. The journey from the Sudan-Egypt border to Cairo will take the same amount of time.
The Filipino evacuees will then board a plane in Cairo to travel back to the Philippines.
“Labor Attaché Hector Cruz will be the first one [going to the border, and our team will deliver food and water for the 340 people. We will go there after lunch, and we will make sure that the 340 Filipinos will be able to rest before they travel to Cairo (Egypt’s capital),” Ople said in a virtual press conference from Egypt.
“While they are in the immigration area, we will provide them with basic essentials. We will be preparing for a chartered flight for them back home,” she added.
She said the government's top priority is to find accommodation for the 340 Filipinos who will be arriving at the Sudan-Egypt border because it will take time for their travel documents to be processed.
"The papers they need to be cleared for entry [to Egypt], according to good Ambassador [Ezzedin] Tago, will be released in two days; three days at most. Then we will start preparing them for travel to Cairo. Since this is an international flight, Cairo is our best bet,” Ople said.
Since fighting broke out between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces, who are vying for control of the country, tighter screening of people fleeing Sudan by the Egyptian government has created challenges, especially for those with insufficient documents.
On Thursday, the evacuees urged the Philippine government to process entry procedures for Egypt more quickly.
Ople said that the affected overseas Filipino workers will each get $200 as immediate financial assistance.
The DMW also provided assistance to the 50 Filipinos who are now in Aswan, Egypt.
“Punuan ang mga hotel rito sa Abu Simbel (Hotels here in Abu Simbel in Aswan are packed with people), which is a major tourist destination. There are tourists and people who evacuated Sudan, including Sudanese families with children,” Ople said, referring to the nearest commercial area to the Sudan-Egypt border.
“There are rooms in Aswan where airconditioning units are not working, and we appealed to them to endure it for a bit. It is better that they have rooms, and they are safe, because it is really hard to secure rooms. We are doing the best we can under the challenges,” she added.
Of the 50 Filipinos in Aswan, 49 are students of Islamic studies. One of them was identified by Ople as Michelle, who initially paid for the travel expenses of Filipinos in Aswan.
“We went to Aswan first because it is farther from the border, and they are stable. We reimbursed them for their expenses,” Ople said.
“We will also make sure that they will have ample rest before they travel to Cairo,” she added.
Ople said Philippine authorities also provided assistance to a Filipino nurse who is taking care of an elderly Sudanese woman.
"The Sudanese family is very attached to her, so we are confident that she is in good hands," Ople said.
Ople will be leaving for Washington, D.C., on Sunday to join President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s US trip, where the latter will meet with American employers.
DMW Undersecretary Hans Cacdac and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration chief Arnell Ignacio will be in Egypt to continue overseeing the evacuation of Filipinos from Sudan.
In a separate statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs said 496 Filipinos had left Khartoum and that 414 were either at the Sudan-Egypt border or had already crossed the border into Egypt.
Fifty-eight of these Filipinos are waiting for the ship that will take them from Port Sudan to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia.
Twenty-four Filipinos were evacuated out of the conflict area by a Greek military flight to Athens, where they will be repatriated back to the Philippines. —VBL, GMA Integrated News