JANUARY 15, 2020 – The Philippines has imposed a total ban on all contract workers in Iraq as authorities start evacuating Filipinos working there, the foreign affairs department said on Wednesday.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) estimated about 6,000 Filipinos are working in Iraq, mostly in the northern Kurdistan region and around US military bases.
In a statement, it said at least 13 Filipino workers from Baghdad and Erbiland are due to arrive in Manila on Wednesday afternoon.
Seven workers and two minors from Baghdad were supposed to arrive on Tuesday but was held by Iraqi immigration officials at the airport for “baseless allegations of visa fraud,” it said.
The Duterte government has pushed through with its plan for the mandatory evacuation of all Filipinos working in Iraq even as tension between the United States and Iran appeared to be simmering down.
Last Friday, the governing board of Philippine Overseas Employment Administration also issued a resolution prohibiting the processing and deployment of OFWs including seafarers.
A copy of the resolution was only provided to the press on Tuesday.
Iraq has been under the highest alert level of DFA for over a week now due to the security threats in the volatile region, following the US killing of an Iranian general in a drone attack.
President Rodrigo Duterte has sent off two Navy ships to the Middle East to assist in the repatriation of OFWs.
He expressed hope that the Navy will be successful in their mission and come back home safely.
“Do not worry, I will be with you and if need be, pupunta rin ako roon kung magkahirapan,” he said during a ceremony in Taguig. “Ngayon tinatawag ko the Armed Forces of the Philippines, sa mga panahon na ito walang ibang grupo o organisasyon na makatulong sa atin.”
The defense and military establishments said the foreign affairs office is still working on a diplomatic clearance to allow the ships to dock in a Persian Gulf port when the ships arrive there in two weeks.
However, the two ships can accommodate a maximum of less than 1,000 civilian passengers other than 400 troops on board. (Karen Macalalad/MM)