Press Release
August 28, 2013

Villar urges DFA, DOLE to intensify repatriation of OFWs in Syria
in light of talks about imminent US-led air strikes

Senator Cynthia Villar urged the Department of Foreign Affairs and Department of Labor and Employment to step up its repatriation of overseas Filipino workers still remaining in Syria given reports of an imminent US-led air strikes against the said country.

Villar noted that around 3,000 Filipinos, mostly women domestic workers, continue to stay in Syria with their mobility already compromised as a result of sniper fire, frequent bombings, and even the alleged use of chemical warfare.

"Let us all pray for the safety of our workers in Syria including the brave men and women of the Philippine Embassy who continue to stay on to ensure their repatriation," Villar said. She added that the DFA can enlist the help of the International Red Cross and the International Organization on Migration (IOM) as well as seek the cooperation of the Syrian government to hasten its repatriation efforts.

She said that it is better for the Philippine government to be prepared for the worst case scenario rather than be caught flat-footed if and when the US does decide to intervene militarily in Syria.

The lady legislator noted that most of these Filipino workers are undocumented, meaning they were deployed mostly by illegal recruiters and human trafficking syndicates thus shifting the burden of repatriation on the Philippine government. More than 90% of Filipinos in Syria are domestic workers, thus under the direct control of Syrian nationals.

Villar appealed to the OFWs in Syria and their families at home: "Whatever you decide, the government is always here to help you. But please do the wise and safe thing, contact the Philippine Embassy and give information so that rescue efforts can immediately be underway. Come home because your family needs you more than your employer."

The senator said that time may be running out on the remaining OFWs in Syria because once the US government decides to launch air strikes, the action will be carried out swiftly and without any clear indications on where the bombs will land.

"We need to pay closer attention to what's going on in Syria and its effects on the rest of the Middle East where we have such a huge OFW population. Once the air strikes begin, no one can really predict the outcome of such interventions," Villar stressed.

The senator said she will file a resolution calling on the Senate foreign relations and labor committees to look into the situation of Filipino workers in countries with civil wars such as Syria and Egypt.

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