THE first batch of Filipino workers from Iraq were expected to arrive in Manila on Wednesday, after the Philippines forced an evacuation amid tensions between the US and Iran, the Foreign Affairs department said.
Thirteen Filipinos, including two minors, were supposed to have arrived on Tuesday, but were delayed after being held by Iraqi officials at the Baghdad International Airport over alleged visa fraud. The remaining four adults will be coming from Erbil.
“The repatriates arriving today comprise the first batch of Filipinos coming home after the government ordered mandatory repatriation,” Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs Sarah Lou Y. Arriola said in a statement.
The government of President Rodrigo R. Duterte ordered mandatory evacuation after top Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani was killed in a US air strike in Baghdad’s international airport. Iran in retaliation fired a series of missiles on two US bases in Iraq less than a week later.
The Philippines later said it won’t force evacuations after the US and Iran seemed to have stood down to avoid war.
Meanwhile, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) said it would provide temporary shelter, stress debriefing, counseling and medical and legal assistance to returning Filipino workers from the Middle East.
Workers who are active members of OWWA will receive P20,000 each in aid; Non-active members will receive half of that, it said.
“These post-repatriation interventions are provided to our repatriated kababayans for their fast recovery and reintegration,” OWWA Administrator Hans Leo J. Cacdac said in a separate statement. — Charmaine A. Tadalan