Russia-Ukraine crisis

DFA: Some OFWs opting to stay in Ukraine to provide for their families

Michelle Abad
DFA: Some OFWs opting to stay in Ukraine to provide for their families

BORDER. People stand at the border crossing between Poland and Ukraine, after Russian President Vladimir Putin authorized a military operation in eastern Ukraine, in Medyka, Poland, on February 24, 2022.

Kacper Pempel/Reuters

The Department of Foreign Affairs says Philippine officials will maintain a presence in Ukraine to assist any Filipinos who want to fly home

MANILA, Philippines – Amid tensions in Ukraine and Russia, some overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are opting to stay in Ukraine because of the need to provide for their families in the Philippines, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a press briefing on Thursday, February 24.

Foreign Undersecretary Sarah Arriola said that, like in other countries, it’s difficult to uproot a migrant worker.

Kahit saan pong parte ng mundo, ‘yung mga Pilipino talaga, hindi madali sa kanilang umuwi dahil sila po ‘yung inaasahan ng kanilang mga pamilya dito sa Pilipinas na magbibigay ng remittances,” Arriola said. (Anywhere in the world, for some Filipinos, it is not easy for them to just go home because their families in the Philippines are depending on them to send remittances.)

“Our Filipinos, especially the ones who are working there, who have families there, have to weigh a lot of things before they decide to come home,” she added.

Repatriation from Ukraine is voluntary for now, since the country is on the DFA’s Alert Level 2 restriction phase. Under Alert Level 2, Filipinos are urged to avoid non-essential movements and avoid public places.

But the DFA reiterated that it is ready to help any and all Filipinos who need assistance for repatriation or transfer to any other area in Ukraine. On February 17, the department sent a consular team to Lviv, a city nearer to the Polish border, to assist Filipinos on the ground.

Six Filipinos were repatriated on February 18, while another four are expected to fly home on Thursday, February 24.

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“The DFA stands ready to help anyone who wants repatriation, whatever the circumstances on the ground [are]. We will always be the last to go. We will never leave anyone behind. That’s our assurance,” said Arriola.

During the crisis, the DFA has accounted for at least 181 Filipinos in Ukraine so far, comprised of household service workers, Filipinos married to Ukranians, and workers in other jobs. They are mostly based in the capital Kyiv – a few hundred kilometers away from the Russian border.

After weeks of escalating tensions in the region and sanctions imposed by Western nations, Russia has begun its invasion of Ukraine. President Vladimir Putin authorized a military operation in the eastern part of the country on Thursday, February 24.

Different contingencies

According to Guillen Rocher, an adviser of United Filipino Global Ukraine, some Filipinos had different contingency plans when the tensions began to escalate.

In a Facebook post on February 14, Rocher said that some Filipinos had ready visas to head to other nearby countries when they wanted to exit. Others were guaranteed by their employers that they would be taken care of.

May mga ayaw umuwi kasi gusto magtrabaho. Yes, it’s true, gusto pa nila kumita at makaipon. But it doesn’t mean na takot sila mapauwi. Worry ang iba, puwede… Siyempre pag-uwi nila, anong work nila doon?” said Rocher.

(There are some who don’t want to go home because they want to work. Yes, it’s true, they still want to earn money and save. But it doesn’t mean that they’re scared to be repatriated. Others are worried, perhaps… Of course, when they come home [to the Philippines], what will their work be?)

The United Filipino Global Ukraine continues to post updates and essential information on its Facebook page for Filipinos in the embattled country.

Filipinos in Ukraine who need repatriation assistance were advised to contact the Philippine embassy in Warsaw through the following:

  • Email: warsaw.pe@dfa.gov.ph
  • Emergency mobile number: +48 604 357 396
  • Office mobile number: +48 694 491 663

– Rappler.com

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a researcher-writer with the investigative unit of Rappler. She also covers overseas Filipinos and the rights of women and children.