DFA says repatriations now over 3,700; OFWs say support lacking

DFA says repatriations now over 3,700; OFWs say support lacking
Filipinos previously stranded in Oman return to the Philippines on July 27, 2021.
Released / Department of Foreign Affairs

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Foreign Affairs reported the arrival of its ninth chartered repatriation flight with 374 Filipinos on board, including 78 pregnant women.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the DFA said that the arrival brought the number of Filipinos who have benefited from repatriation efforts supported by the department from the United Arab Emirates to 3,724. 

The DFA said it was able to bring home more stranded overseas Filipino workers in the past month.

From 1,037 arrivals in June, it said the July figures reached 1,415 with four flights mounted in July compared to three in June.

"We recognize the efforts of the men and women in our Posts overseas and at the Home Office, as we see in the increased number of the total number of Fililipinos repatriated in July. We also recognize the assistance of other government agencies who work closely with us in this repatriation process," said Undersecretary Sarah Lou Arriola.

"While the DFA continues to mount more flights in the coming months, we also recognize the importance of special commercial repatriation of Bayanihan flights, as we call them, which will really supplement the repatriation efforts. We expect to bring home most stranded Filipinos from the UAE by the end of August."

All repatriates received $200 as reintegration assistance from the DFA and will undergo a mandatory 14-day facility-based quarantine.

The DFA chartered repatriation flights are all funded by the Department’s Assistance To Nationals Fund.

In its latest tally, the DFA also reported 21,641 coronavirus cases among Filipinos living abroad.

Middle East OFWs seek financial, other support

In a statement Sunday, progressive OFW group Migrante International hit what it said was the Duterte administration's refusal "to provide financial assistance" to OFWs and their families. 

"Many OFW families need ayuda, as many OFWs have been retrenched from work, have suffered from reductions in work and wages, have been subjected to no work, no pay schemes, have run out of savings, among other ordeals caused and worsened by the pandemic," it said. 

It said that the repatriation flights were "too few," pointing to the nearly 6,000 Filipinos who applied for flights back home. 

"Each flight can accommodate only 350 passengers, amounting to less than 30 percent of those who applied," Migrante said. 

Migrante also panned the extended travel ban imposed on OFWs, which it said "has brought suffering to thousands, possibly tens of thousands, of OFWs [who] want to come home from the UAE."

"OFWs in the Middle East are suffering from the travel ban because of the Duterte government's incompetence in handling the COVID-19 pandemic," the statement read. 

"Even OFWs in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Middle Eastern countries are having a hard time going home  — even as the Philippine government has not declared a travel ban on OFWs from the said countries." — with a report from Bella Perez-Rubio 

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