PH scraps plea for OFWs to leave Egypt

Paterno Esmaquel II
The political and security situation in Egypt has improved, says the DFA, but only OFWs with existing contracts are allowed to return to their host country

MORE PROTESTS. Egyptians activists shout slogans as they rally near Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, November 19 2013. Photo by EPA/Al-Masry al-Youm

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines on Friday, November 29, said it has scrapped its appeal for Filipinos to flee strife-torn Egypt after the “continued improvement in the political and security situation” there.

In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Egypt is no longer under Crisis Alert Level 3. Under the Philippine system, this alert level means voluntary repatriation for Filipinos in the concerned country.

Egypt is now under Crisis Alert Level 2, what the Philippines calls the “restriction phase.”

“Alert Level 2 (restriction phase) is issued when there are real threats to the life, security, and property of Filipinos from internal disturbance or external threat. Restriction phase allows only returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) with existing employment contracts, or a group of OFWs under special circumstances, to go back to their host country,” the DFA said.

At the height of instability in Egypt, the DFA reached a point when it implemented Crisis Alert Level 4. This alert level meant mandatory repatriation. (READ: DFA orders Filipinos to leave Egypt.)

Few fled Egypt

The government, however, managed to repatriate only 168 of the 6,000 Filipinos in Egypt. That’s 2.8% of the Filipinos there.

The lower crisis alert level is a sign of better times, but Egypt remains in turmoil.

Locked in a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood since President Mohamed Morsi’s ouster, Egypt has launched a diplomatic offensive against the movement’s foreign backers armed with funds from its old foes. (READ: Egypt takes aim at Brotherhood’s foreign backers.)

On Saturday, November 23, Egypt also expelled Turkey’s ambassador in the latest souring of diplomatic ties that began when the Egyptian army ousted Morsi from power in July. (READ: Egypt expels Turkish envoy over Morsi row.) – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.