Philippines open to accepting asylum seekers from Afghanistan

Rudy Santos, Pia Lee-Brago, Alexis Romero - The Philippine Star
Philippines open to accepting asylum seekers from Afghanistan
Taliban fighters and local people sit on an Afghan National Army (ANA) humvee vehicle on a street in Jalalabad province on August 15, 2021.

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is willing to accept asylum seekers from Afghanistan, which has been taken over by the Islamist movement Taliban.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the Philippines had admitted people who fled from their homelands to avoid persecution.

Roque cited the Philippines’ welcoming Jews during World War II and when a Russian czar was ousted from power.

“Since time immemorial, the Philippines has had jurisprudence, even before the Convention of Refugees, welcoming asylum seekers. As stated by the Supreme Court, the Philippines will not hesitate to admit individuals fleeing from their homelands because of fear of persecution,” Roque said during a press briefing.

“All those who need help because they are being persecuted in their country, they have a place here in the Philippines,” he said.

Roque said it would be up to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to determine whether the Philippines would recognize and open diplomatic channels with the Taliban-led Afghanistan.

The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan last Sunday following the collapse of the US-backed government.

Chaos ensued at the Kabul airport as thousands of Afghans tried to escape from Taliban rule.

32 Pinoys evacuated

Meanwhile, 32 Filipinos who were among 500 staff and personnel of the US embassy in Afghanistan were airlifted from Kabul on Sunday after the Taliban forces took control of the Afghan capital city, a Manila-based migration consultant said yesterday.

Emmanuel Geslani said the Filipinos were brought by Chinook helicopters to the Kabul Airport, where they boarded a cargo plane that flew them to the US Airbase in Doha, Qatar.

The Filipinos will be flown to Manila as part of the US government repatriation, Geslani said.

As these developed, 35 Filipinos from Afghanistan arrived yesterday at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

The DFA said the 35 Filipinos were evacuated from Kabul by their foreign employers and were airlifted to Doha.

The Filipinos took a DFA chartered flight from Doha to Manila.

The DFA said 19 more Filipinos were set to be repatriated and arrangements were underway.

It said there are around 130 Filipinos in Afghanistan, including the 32 who were taken out of Kabul on Sunday and 19 others who are set to be repatriated.

More than 80 Filipinos signed up to join a repatriation flight that is being arranged by the Philippine embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan.

The US military suspended the airlifting for 72 hours to clear the airport ground of thousands of Afghans who wanted to get out of the country.

The US has airlifted around 900 of its citizens and wanted to evacuate 30,000 more personnel.

Most Filipinos in Afghanistan are professionals working for various international companies.

“Thanks to companies they worked for. We had nothing to do with it. But we’re on to taking out those without sponsors. Filipino community leaders took the lead and assembled their compatriots for takeout at an instant notice,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. posted on Twitter yesterday.

The DFA on Sunday raised Alert Level 4 and ordered the mandatory repatriation of Filipinos in Afghanistan.

A chartered flight of flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) to Kabul will push through at a later date to pick up stranded overseas Filipino workers who signed up for repatriation.

Sources said the PAL flight to Kabul through Dubai, which was organized by the Philippine government and the flag carrier, did not push through today.

The DFA, which is organizing the chartered flight, will issue officials announcements on the matter.

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