DFA to repatriate distressed Pinoys at PH embassy in Syria

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    FOREIGN Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. yesterday said all distressed Filipinos currently seeking shelter at the Philippine Embassy in Damascus, Syria will be repatriate as soon as possible.

    Some of the distressed Filipinos are victims of human trafficking and of sexual abuse by their employers while others were not paid their salaries.

    “ALL.ASAP. No excuses,” Locsin said in a tweet.

    He said the DFA will send a team to Damascus to assist the embassy in the repatriation of the Filipinos, possibly in “the next flight out.”

    Locsin did not say how many are currently staying at the Filipino Workers Resource Center in the embassy.

    Locsin reiterated the department’s warning for all Filipinos seeking jobs abroad to deal only with government-authorized or accredited deployment agencies to prevent them from becoming victims of human traffickers.

    “I reiterate DFA-DOLE warning. Undocumented workers are in particularly perilous situations. They are trafficked from Mindanao touristically from neighboring visa-free ASEAN countries therefrom to places under deployment ban and thereby to living hell,” he added.

    A deployment ban of Filipino workers is in effect in Syria due to the civil war there since 2011.

    The distressed Filipinos have been the subject of an article published in the Washington Post entitled “Sold into Syrian servitude, Filipina workers tell of abuse, rape and imprisonment.”

    The article detailed the travails of Filipinas who were recruited to work in the United Arab Emirates but were instead trafficked to war-torn Syria where their employers subjected them to abuses.

    Locsin immediately berated Embassy officials after the article was published, saying he will hold them liable if the problem is not addressed.

    But he later said the story is an old one and contained inaccuracies, though it is not an excuse for the embassy’s failure to protect Filipinos abroad.