OWWA-11 braces for possible repatriation of 34 OFWs in Iraq, Iran

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 13 January) – The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration-Region 11 (OWWA-11) is ready to provide support to at least 34 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) from the Davao region working in Iraq and Iran should the government pursue a massive repatriation program owing to the conflict between Iran and the United States, an official said.

Speaking during the Kapehan sa Dabaw on Monday, Carmelo Elaya, OWWA-11 chief for programs and services division, said there are currently 24 OFWs in Iraq and 10 in Iran coming from the Davao region.

There are a total of 1,600 Filipino workers in Iraq and 1,000 in Iran who are being monitored by OWWA personnel in the Middle East, he said.

The Philippine embassies in Iraq, Iran and Lebanon had raised Alert Level 4, calling for the immediate forced repatriation of Filipino workers due to the escalating tension between the US and Iran, following the killing of a top Iranian general last January 3

On January 9, the government lifted Alert Level 4 in Iran and reduced to Alert Level 2 the status in Lebanon.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III earlier said the mandatory evacuation of OFWs in Iraq, as well as the total deployment ban there, will still be enforced.

“Our welfare officers from OWWA had prepared a contingency plan (for the possible repatriation) of OFWs and their families (in Iraq and Iran),” Elaya said.

He said that OWWA-11 has already prepared the reintegration program called “Balik Pinas! Balik Hanapbuhay! Program, a “non-cash livelihood support/assistance intended to provide immediate relief to returning member OFWs, active or non-active who are displaced from their jobs due to war/political conflicts in host countries or policy reform controls and changes by the host government or are victims of illegal recruitment and/or human trafficking or other distressful situations.”

Returning OFWs would receive a livelihood assistance package worth P20,000, according to him.

Elaya noted that not all workers in Iraq wanted to be repatriated.

He said the family of an OFW in Iraq went to OWWA-11 last week informing the agency about the preference of their family member there.

The family approached us because the OFW does not want to return home, since he was in a good condition and away from the bombings there, Elaya said.

The US-Iran friction stemmed from the assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani upon the orders of US President Donald Trump.

Iran retaliated by firing ballistic missiles at two American military bases in Iraq.

Nobody was hurt in the attack.