OFWs in Afghanistan decry alert advisory

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The issuance of a crisis alert level 3 advisory in Afghanistan is unfair to overseas Filipino workers (OFW) there, a leading migrant expert said on Sunday.

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In a statement, Emmanuel Geslani said that no Filipinos are being “killed, mutilated, abandoned or abused by their employers” in the country.

Junie Fernandez, an OFW in Afghanistan who has been working there since 2008 and one of the leaders of the group, Filipinos in Afghanistan (FIA), said there was “absolutely no basis nor proof” that the political situation in Afghanistan after the presidential elections affects workers inside US bases.

Fernandez wrote to Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario to urge the Department of Foreign Affairs to reconsider the issuance of the alert level 3 advisory.

In 2011, Fernandez convinced the Aquino administration to grant a partial lifting of the deployment ban in Afghanistan which allowed OFWs working in US bases to come home and return to their jobsites with the help of documentation by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration-Balik Manggagawa (POEA-BM).

In his letter to the DFA secretary, Fernandez said that even the Philippine Embassy in Pakistan, which has jurisdiction over Philippine affairs in Afghanistan, was never consulted prior to the issuance of the advisory.

Meanwhile, a US company in Afghanistan has written POEA Administrator Hans Cacdac to personally assure the government that all Filipino employees are safe and amply protected by a security force.

According to Geslani, Col. Keith Seiwell of AZ Corporation, which supplies bottled water to US bases in Afghanistan, informed Cacdac that OFWs in his company will soon be inside the military security perimeter of the US Airforce in Bagram Airfield.

Geslani said that about 50 to 80 OFWs from Afghanistan are now stranded in Manila after taking their vacations because the POEA stopped processing overseas employment certificates for them.

Also, those who received such certificates prior to the issuance of the advisory were prevented by the Bureau of Immigration from boarding flights to Dubai, the jump-off point for airlines servicing US bases.

The OFWs who were offloaded by the Immigration bureau are wary that the old practice of some immigration agents before 2011 may return because of the urgency of their desire to go back to Afghanistan.

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