Pinoys in Iraq urged to leave as situation worsens
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Filipinos in Iraq are being asked to voluntarily return to the Philippines at government expense.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Saturday, June 14, raised the crisis alert level for all areas in Iraq to Level 3 which signals voluntary repatriation. It cited the “deteriorating security situation” as reason for the repatriation.
There are an estimated 500 overseas Filipino workers in Iraq working mostly in American military bases in Baghdad, the capital.
Iraq, according to the BBC, faces its "most severe crisis in years, with the country on the brink of break-up amid lightning offensives by jihadist militants." Sunni jihadist militants seized Falluja in December 2013 and exploited the anger of Sunni Arabs, who have felt discriminated against by Iraq's Shia Prime Minister Nouri Maliki. From Falluja, the militants have been advancing towards Baghdad.
An Al-Qaeda breakaway group, the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), has been carrying out almost daily bombings in the capital, even as it was on the verge of a strategic defeat 5 years ago. The ISIS aspires to establish an Islamic state in nearby Syria, which lies to the west of Iraq.
In May, more than 900 were reported killed from the violence. Iraqi ministries pegged the toll at 938 killed, including 804 civilians, and 1,463 wounded.
US President Barack Obama said the US was not sending troops to Iraq to help it fight the Islamists. "We will not be sending US troops back into combat in Iraq, but I have asked my national security team to prepare a range of other options that could help support Iraqi security forces," he said on Friday, June 13.
Watch a statement from Obama below.
Washington had spent billions of dollars training and equipping Iraqi security forces before withdrawing its troops in 2011.
The DFA's alert excludes the Iraqi Kurdistan region which remains under Alert Level 1 or a precautionary phase. A statement from the DFA said the region remains “relatively calm and stable.”
The foreign office is sending a rapid response team to Iraq to assist in the voluntary repatriation of Filipinos living there. It continues to monitor political and security developments in the country. – Rappler.com