Stranded OFWs fear loss of jobs

February 23, 2020

HUNDREDS of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Special Administrative Region of Kurdistan, a northern province in Iraq which is violence free, has appealed to the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad to recommend the lifting of the deployment ban imposed by the government.

On Jan. 10, 2020 the government through the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) imposed the ban on deployment to Kurdistan at the height of the political crisis in Iraq.

In a letter addressed to the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad affected Samahang Mangagawa ng Kurdistan, expressed the sentiments of the Filipino community in Kurdistan for the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to recommend the lifting of the deployment ban.

It was learned that officials at the Philippine Embassy have forwarded the urgent request to DFA Manila, however there has been no reply yet.

Many Filipino workers who were working in Kurdistan were vacationing in Manila when the government suddenly imposed the deployment ban when violent rallies occurred in Baghdad against the US Embassy.

It’s been over a month since the Duterte Administration mounted a massive repatriation effort to extricate Filipinos from Iraq led by DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu to Doha, Qatar with a Rapid Response Team that flew to Iraq to convince Filipinos to come home.

Apparently, despite persistent efforts of his team, only 30 OFWs, mostly domestic helpers illegally recruited to Baghdad, heeded the call to return to Manila.

Two Navy Ships were dispatched to the Middle East to ferry the expected huge number of Filipinos In Iraq.  

Data from the Department of Labor and Employment showed there are 2,191 overseas Filipino workers in Iraq, while records from the DFA counted 4,204 Filipinos in the Middle Eastern country as of June 2019.   

Over 2,000 Filipinos working in US Bases refused repatriation and another 1,500 working in Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan, also turned down repatriation by the Rapid Response Team.

The Filipinos now stranded in Manila are requesting to be allowed to return to Kurdistan to save their jobs while some now in that country want to come home for family reunions with graduation rites coming up in March.

It was also gathered that the US-Iran conflict which spilled over to Baghdad has gone down, and Kurdistan has always been “violence free” being in the Northern province hundreds of miles away from Baghdad.