MORE than 327,000 migrant Filipino workers from at least 90 countries came home last year amid a coronavirus pandemic that has sickened 85.5 million and killed more than 1.9 million people worldwide, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Of the total, 231,537 were land-based workers and the rest were sailors from 150 cruise ships and oil tankers, it said in a statement on Monday.

Most of the returning Filipinos or 228,893 came from the Middle East, 36,868 from Asia and the Pacific, 30,971 from the Americas, 28,909 from Europe and 1,870 from Africa.

The agency helped 51,770 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) in December, even as the Philippines banned foreign travelers from 20 countries where a new coronavirus strain had been detected.

DFA said it had mounted sweeper flights to bring home distressed OFWs from Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). It was also the highest monthly total since coronavirus-related repatriations started in February.

“As we start a new year, the DFA remains committed to its assistance-to-nationals mandate and renews its promise to bring home every Filipino who wishes to come home,” Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Sarah Lou Y. Arriola said in the statement.

In October, the department helped 500 Filipino students in Israel and 93 OFWs from Benghazi in Libya, the first since 2017. It also conducted the first repatriation by sea from Indonesia of 40 Filipino fishermen.

In November, the DFA helped nine Filipino sailors who were abandoned at their shipping vessel that was docked at the Port of Djibouti in East Africa.

DFA said more than 12,800 migrant Filipinos have been infected with the coronavirus. About 8,300 patients have recovered, while at least 900 died. — Charmaine A. Tadalan