1st batch of Filipinos from Iraq to arrive in Manila on January 15
MANILA, Philippines – The first batch of Filipinos evacuating from Iraq is set to arrive in the Philippines on Wednesday, January 15, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced.
The DFA said 13 Filipinos, coming in two groups, were brought from Baghdad and Erbil in Iraq to Doha, Qatar, where they were to board commercial flights to Manila.
Long way home: The Filipinos’ travel home was not without bumps. The first batch of OFWs repatriated from Iraq were supposed to return home Sunday, January 12, but heavy ashfall from eruption of the Tall volcano suspended all flights in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport the same day.
Obstacles continued with the first group from Baghdad, supposed to return on Tuesday, January 14. But the group, composed of 7 adults and 2 minors, was held by Iraqi immigration officials at the Baghdad International Airport for “baseless allegations of visa fraud,” the DFA said. The other 4 Filipinos making up the second group are adults coming from Erbil, a city located north of Baghdad.
Other measures: Despite this, the DFA gave assurances that it “will do all that needs to be done to get Filipinos out of harm’s way.”
Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr had earlier announced that the DFA deployed rapid response teams to the Middle East to assist in repatriation efforts the region. This is on top of two ships from the Philippine Navy sent to the Middle East on Tuesday.
Apart from this, several Philippine officials have been in the Middle East to assist and facilitate repatriation efforts. DFA Undersecretary Sarah Lou Arriola said more Filipinos from affected areas were expected to return to the Philippines "in the coming weeks."
The Philippines earlier ordered the mandatory evacuation of Filipinos from Iraq after the United States’ targeted killing of Iran commander Qasem Soleimani pushed the region to the brink of war. Though both countries have backed down from further attacks, the Philippine government continued to urge OFWs to come home as the situation in the region remained volatile. – Rappler.com