Group welcomes Syria waiver on stranded OFWs exit visa

MIGRANTE-Middle East (M-ME), a migrants’ rights group, today said it welcomed the move by the Syrian government waiving the required exit visa or clearance for 225 OFWs who are temporarily seeking refuge at the Philippine Embassy building in Damascus, Syria.

On Wednesday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced that Sec. Albert Del Rosario was able to negotiate the issuance of a waiver of the exit visa clearances for the 225 OFWs by the Syrian government.

“While we welcome the Syria waiver on exit visa clearances so that the 225 stranded OFWs could be repatriated, the DFA honchos should have done this last year,” said M-ME regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona, reacting to this news report.

Monterona noted that the public and various OFW groups have been demanding the DFA to better assess the then deteriorating peace and order situation in Syria so that an appropriate evacuation and repatriation plan have promptly been implemented by the PH post and the DFA in Syria without waiting the situation to deteriorate.

Monterona added that ‘better late than never’ is not even appropriate to describe the success of the PH government in dealing with the Assad government as the lives and safety of the stranded OFWs have been so compromised.

“With the Syria govt. waiving the exit visa clearances, the kin in the Philippines expect their stranded OFWs immediate repatriation,” Monterona added.

Monterona added aside from repatriation efforts by the PH govt., there are a considerable numbers of OFWs still trapped in Syria.

“To our conservative estimates, there are still around 2,000 OFWs trapped all over Syria, awaiting to be rescued and evacuated, aside from those 225 OFWs housed at the PH embassy in Damascus,” Monterona added.

He added, “It’s not yet mission accomplished. Evacuation efforts to secure our fellow OFWs in safe refuges are still wanting, and it’s the most difficult task.”

“The PH govt. through the DFA must continue to explore with the Syria govt. how the remaining trapped OFWs all over Syria could be rescued and evacuated to safer places and eventually be repatriated,” Monterona said.

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