The Department of Migrant Workers is looking into possible temporary employment in Saudi Arabia for displaced OFWs
MANILA – The Philippine government is set to evacuate through land, air, and sea the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who sought assistance to flee clashes in Sudan, the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) announced on Tuesday, April 25.
“We are looking at three exit points. One would be from Khartoum, by land, and exit via Aswan into Egypt. That’s a land trip. The second one would be by land to Port Sudan and then by ship to Jeddah. The third one would be by air through Djibouti in cooperation with the US government, because they have a US base in Djibouti,” said Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople in a Malacañang briefing.
Malacañang announced that President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. met with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Department of National Defense to discuss the situation in Sudan and how the government can bring Filipinos to safety.
Ople, together with DMW Undersecretary Hans Cacdac, will fly out to Cairo on Tuesday evening to oversee the Philippine government’s welfare response.
According to Ople, the President’s directives were to get all affected OFWs to safety as quickly as possible, to assist regardless of documentation, and to coordinate with everyone, including other governments and international nongovernment organizations.
“Right now, we are hoping that the 72-hour ceasefire that has been declared will hold and…we are preparing ourselves,” said Marcos.
“The Department of Migrant Workers will have several teams in place composed of seasoned veterans in crisis situations, to assist OFWs who are able to cross from Sudan into safer grounds,” Ople said in a statement separate from the Palace briefing.
The department said it is closely coordinating with Philippine Ambassador to Egypt Ezzedin Tago and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to identify locations where cross-border assistance teams will be stationed.
Ople added that displaced workers would receive $200 in cash aid, and the department would assess their reintegration needs.
“Many of them do not have any belongings with them. There are also women and children affected. So we want to make sure that there are proper facilities as well,” Ople said in a mix of English and Filipino.
The department is also looking into the possibility of securing temporary employment in Saudi Arabia for displaced OFWs, in coordination with the kingdom’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development.
According to the DFA, many of the OFWs in Sudan are professionals like teachers and engineers, while some are domestic workers.
“Naiintindihan naman natin ‘yung iba ayaw umuwi, kasi iniisip nila, ‘Wala din naman kaming trabaho doon, so might as well stay and then tingnan natin kung baka humupa ‘yung sitwasyon,’” said Ople.
(We understand that some of them don’t want to go home because they’re thinking, “We don’t have jobs there anyway, so might as well stay and see if the situation will calm down.”)
As for those who will be heading back to the Philippines, the DMW said it has set up teams that are conducting job-matching, so that these OFWs would still have employment when they come home. Families would also receive a financial assistance package, Ople said.
Fighting erupted between the Sudan Armed Forces and Rapid Support Forces paramilitary group on April 15. The clashes have killed at least 427 people, affected hospitals and other services, and turned residential areas into war zones.
Hundreds needing assistance
Citing numbers from the DFA, Ople said on Tuesday that 725 Filipinos have contacted the Philippine embassy in Cairo. Of this number, 327 have requested repatriation, so far. The government expects the numbers to rise.
In a Laging Handa briefing on Monday, April 24, Foreign Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Eduardo de Vega confirmed that several affected Filipinos were already evacuated by their employers. They include three Filipino women working for the Saudia airline, who were able to cross over to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia along with other employees.
“‘Yung mga naiiwan na kababayan sa Sudan…nakakaawa nga ‘yung iba kapag nakikita ko ‘yung messages nila,” said De Vega. (As for our countrymen who are still in Sudan…I feel pity for some when I read their messages.)
In one message the embassy received, a distressed Filipino said their employer had abandoned them. “Para siyang pusa daw o aso na iniwan doon (It was like they were a pet cat or dog that was just left behind),” said De Vega.
Filipinos looking to get in touch with the embassy can do so through the following contact details:
- WhatsApp/Mobile: +20 122 743 6472
- Facebook/Messenger: PHinEgypt
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org