Department of Foreign Affairs

PH eases Iraq alert level, exempts returning OFWs from ban

Sofia Tomacruz
The Department of Foreign Affairs calls for the voluntary repatriation of Filipinos after over a year of implementing mandatory evacuations in the country

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs downgraded its Alert Level for Iraq, calling for the voluntary repatriation of overseas Filipino workers, after over a year of implementing mandatory evacuations in the Middle Eastern state. 

In a statement on Tuesday, November 2, the DFA said it lowered its Alert Level for the whole of Iraq from Alert Level 4 to Alert Level 3, “due to some improvements in the security situation in the country and as requested by the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Iraq.”

The DFA states that Alert Level 3  is issued “when violent disturbances or external aggression occur in a limited area,” as opposed to Alert Level 4 which is issued in times of “large-scale internal conflict or full-blown external attack.”

The lowering of the Alert Level over Iraq also means that retuning OFWs will be allowed to return to the country. A deployment ban over household service workers and newly-hired OFWs is still in effect. 

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) had earlier lifted the deployment ban for returning Filipinos in late October 2021, under certain conditions. These include that the worker has proof they are active and returning to the same employer, contracts conform with Philippine and Iraqi labor laws, and work sites are outside of “no-go-zones” such as the provinces of Anbar, Nineveh, Kirkurk and Mosul; Sadr City, Baghdad Province; Amedi, Erbil Province; and Mahkmour, Erbil Province.

Aside from this, the POEA said employers of OFWs must sign “an undertaking guaranteeing secured premises in Iraq and an undertaking guaranteeing financial sponsorship and facilitation of the repatriation of the OFW from Iraq covering both airfare and visa penalties.”

The DFA urged Filipinos in Iraq to continue exercising caution and limiting movements to only necessary trips. OFWs should also stay in contact with the Philippine embassy in Baghdad through the following numbers +9647506561740, +9647516167838, and +9647508105240, or by email through baghdad.pe@dfa.gov.ph

In January 2020, the DFA raised Alert Level 4 and ordered the evacuation of more than 1,000 Filipino workers in Iraq due to security threats as tensions rose in the Middle East, following the killing of top Iran commander Major General Qasem Soleimani. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.