Lack of employment opportunities in the Philippines is forcing thousands of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in conflict-riddled countries in the Middle East and North Africa to risk their lives by staying there.
To drive home their message to the Philippine government, these OFWs have refused repatriation, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Tuesday.
Charles Jose, Foreign Affairs spokesman, said in a news briefing that the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) are drafting measures for alternative employment for Filipinos in Yemen, Libya and other countries reeling from internal violence.
Some 4,000 Filipinos in Libya and more than half of the 400 remaining in Yemen, according to Jose, still refuse to leave because of poor job prospects at home.
“Their concern is they will not find work here that pays comparable wages that they get in Libya or Yemen,” Jose said.
The DFA, however, continues to call on Filipinos both in Libya and Yemen to avail of the Philippine government’s repatriation program because exiting both countries may not be possible anymore without government assistance.
Commercial flights to and from the capital cities of Tripoli and Sana’a have been suspended, and land routes remain the only alternative for those who want to leave Libya and Yemen.
Jose said the department had taken out paid advertisements to appeal to the Filipinos’ families here and in Libya and Yemen to convince their loved ones to come home.
Libya and Yemen are both under crisis alert level 4, which means mandatory repatriation for the Filipinos there.
The alert level suspends deployment of newly hired and OFWs.
On Monday, Jose said the Crisis Management Team, headed by Philippine Ambassador to Riyadh Ezzedin Tago, is taking out the last batch of Filipinos from the Yemeni capital.
The move came after the team said it can no longer ensure safe passage from Sana’a to the Saudi Arabian border via Hodeidah.
Yemen and Libya have been suffering from civil unrest, as well as conflicts among their armed groups, especially after the Arab Spring.
Saudi Arabia started air strikes on Yemen more than a week ago, and rebels have been battling royal forces on the ground.
Since then, around 600 people have been killed and the intense fighting has displaced thousands of Yemeni.