MANILA (Mabuhay) – Another batch consisting of 41 Filipinos has been repatriated from Syria with the help of Philippine officials in Lebanon and Syria, the Department of Foreign Affairs said.
The DFA said the Philippine embassies in Beirut, Lebanon and Damascus, Syria, worked with the International Organization for Migration to repatriate the 41 last May 6.
“The departure of this group of 41 Filipinos brought to 2,305 the total number of Filipinos repatriated from Syria via the Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut since the first cross-border operations began on 12 December 2012,” it said in a news release.
“This brings the total number of Filipinos repatriated from Syria to 5,334,” the DFA added.
The DFA said the IOM shouldered the airfare and expenses for land transportation and meals of the repatriates. It added the May 6 operation was the 50th cross-border operation.
A Reuters report said more than 150,000 people have been killed in the Syria conflict, which has become increasingly sectarian as rival regional powers have backed either President Bashar Hafez al-Assad, a member of the Shi’ite offshoot Alawite sect, or the overwhelmingly Sunni rebels who oppose him.
Millions more have fled their homes and fighting regularly kills more than 200 people a day.
The road home
For the May 6 operation, the DFA said a team from the Philippine Embassy in Beirut composed of Vice Consul Dennis John Briones and Assistance-to-Nationals (ATN) Officer Dexter Macaraeg assisted the repatriates at the Masna’a border, where representatives of the IOM were present.
“After undergoing entry immigration procedures in Masna’a, the Embassy team escorted the repatriates directly to the Rafik Hariri International Airport in Beirut where another team from the Embassy and IOM assisted them in going through airline and immigration formalities. Vice Consul Briones and Embassy Collecting Officer Alberto Bansil comprised the Embassy airport team,” the DFA said.
The repatriates then left Beirut for their flight to Manila via Dubai (United Arab Emirates), and arrived in Manila on May 7 at 3:55 p.m. via Emirates Airlines flight EK 332.
Meanwhile, the DFA appealed anew to Filipinos still in Syria to seek immediate repatriation.
It said they may call the Philippine Embassy in Damascus at 00963-11-6132626, 00963-949155557, and 00963-934957926 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, it said families of Filipinos in Syria may provide the it with updated information regarding their next-of-kin’s location and contact details in Syria.
They may call the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs (OUMWA) at (02) 834-3240 or 834-4583 or the DFA’s 24-hour Action Center at (02) 834-3333. (MNS)