Filipinos in Iraq to be repatriated; highest crisis alert raised

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 08 2020 05:26 AM | Updated as of Jan 08 2020 10:03 AM

People gather at the funeral of the Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, top commander of the elite Quds Force of the Revolutionary Guards, and the Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who were killed in an air strike at Baghdad airport, in Baghdad, Iraq, January 4, 2020. Wissm al-Okili, Reuters

MANILA — The Philippines will repatriate its nationals in Iraq after the killing of an Iranian general in a US drone strike there stoked fresh tensions, authorities said Wednesday.

The Philippine Embassy in Iraq said it raised the highest in a 4-step crisis alert system, which called for a mandatory repatriation of Filipinos.

Alert Level 4 is issued "when there is large-scale internal conflict or full-blown external attack," according to the Department of Foreign Affairs website.

"Magkakaroon na po ng forced evacuation d'yan (there will be a forced evacuation there)," Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello added in a DZMM interview.

Filipinos in Iraq should keep their passport at all times and coordinate closely with the embassy and their respective employers, said Chargé d’Affaires Jomar Sadie in a live video on the embassy's official Facebook page.

An exit visa and ticket, which must be secured through employers, are needed during the repatriation, he said.

"Kung walang employer o biktima ng human trafficking, tumawag sa amin para matulungan namin kayo o pumunta directly sa embassy," Sadie advised.

(If you have no employer or you're a victim of human trafficking, call us so we can help you or go directly to the embassy.)

Overseas Filipino workers may reach the embassy at hotline numbers 07816066822, 07516167838, 07518764665 and 07508105240; via email through baghdad.pe@dfa.gov.ph or mbaphilbaghdad.secretary1@gmail.com; and its Facebook page.

There are some 1,600 Filipinos in Iraq, a defense official earlier said.

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Bello said he would also send 2 officials to neighboring Saudi and Kuwait to brief Filipinos on what to do should tensions in the Middle East escalate.

About a quarter of the total 2.3 million OFWs are in Saudi, while Kuwait hosts 262,000 Filipinos, according to government data.

In response to last week's killing of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, Tehran on Wednesday fired "more than a dozen" ballistic missiles against 2 airbases in Iraq where US and coalition forces are based, the Pentagon said.

There were no immediate reports of casualties at the bases.

The attacks came after pro-Tehran factions in Iraq had vowed to "respond" to a US drone strike that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad last week.

Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy head of Iraq's Hashed al-Shaabi military network, was killed in the US drone strike alongside Soleiman, seen as the "godfather" of Tehran's proxy network across the region.

— With a report from Agence France-Presse