Priority assistance assured for Filipinos from Gaza once Egypt reopens border

Kristine Daguno-Bersamina - Philstar.com
Priority assistance assured for Filipinos from Gaza once Egypt reopens border
People react as Palestinian civil defence members and others search for survivors after an Israeli bombardment in Khan Yunis on the southern Gaza Strip on October 19, 2023. Thousands of people, both Israeli and Palestinians have died since October 7, 2023, after Palestinian Hamas militants based in the Gaza Strip, entered southern Israel in a surprise attack leading Israel to declare war on Hamas in Gaza on October 8.
AFP / Mahmud Hams

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Saturday that Egyptian authorities will give priority and assistance to Filipinos crossing from Gaza into Egypt as soon as the border reopens. 

The Egyptian Ambassador to the Philippines, Ahmed Shehabeldin, discussed this with DFA Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega, who thanked the ambassador for working to make the process smoother for foreigners, especially Filipinos, at the border crossing.

Based on the latest report, there are approximately 135 Filipinos in Gaza who have faced challenging circumstances due to the ongoing conflict. However, it is not expected that all will opt to cross into Egypt. 

"Pero hindi natin inaasahan, we don't expect na aabot sa 100 ang tatawid talaga dahil 'yung nakita lang sa crossing nu'ng umpisa, 78. Hanggang 80 lang ang interested," De Vega said during an interview on Dobol B TV

(We don't expect that the total number of Filipinos crossing Rafah Crossing won't exceed 100. Initially, when tensions flared, we observed 78 Filipinos moving towards the border, with up to 80 expressing their interest in crossing.)

Before reaching the Egyptian territory, De Vega said there is a preliminary processing area at the border crossing. The Egyptian authorities have been provided with a list of Filipinos intending to cross, ensuring they receive the necessary assistance.

De Vega said that convincing some individuals to cross might be challenging, emphasizing the importance of personal readiness in such a difficult situation. 

The Rafah Crossing remains closed for now.

De Vega expressed his corncern about the closure but said Rafah Crossing could open soon.

"Inaasahan natin na matapos na 'yung mga negotiations. May construction pa raw ng kalsada na kailangan pang tapusin agad eh. So wala pa. Pero at any moment's notice, puwede na silang tumawid kung sakaling magbukas," he said.

(We think negotiations will end soon. The road construction is still in progress, keeping the crossing closed. But once Rafah opens, Filipinos can cross quickly.)

The situation in Gaza remains tense, with Hamas militants launching attacks in Israel, leading to Israeli airstrikes that have caused significant destruction. 

Amid the conflict, there have been warnings for Gaza City residents to move to safer areas in anticipation of an Israeli ground offensive targeting Hamas.

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