The Blas F. Ople Policy Center, a non-government organization that assists distressed overseas workers, urged all local governments to link families of OFWs in Syria with the national government to fast-track rescue efforts.
The Center noted that since most of the Filipinos in Syria left the country as tourist workers, the Philippine Embassy might not know the whereabouts of all OFWs in the said country.
“It is imperative that while our embassy personnel are still able to move around and contact Syrian employers to negotiate for the release of our workers, that the families here at home are able to supply them with proper information. Unfortunately, some of the OFW relatives harbor fears of reprisal because of the undocumented status of their loved ones,” Susan Ople, the center’s president, explained.
She added that families of OFWs in Syria are invited to a dialogue with DFA officials to discuss the current repatriation efforts. The dialogue, which was requested by the Blas F. Ople Center, will be held on Thursday, August 28, at 10 AM at the Department of Foreign Affairs.
“Many of these families are extremely poor that they couldn’t even afford bus fare to be able to attend the dialogue,” Ople noted, hence the need for support from local governments.
The OFW advocate also challenged local executives to come up with their own local reintegration programs for returning OFWs as incentives for those who wish to come home but couldn’t for fear of losing valuable incomes.
“Teamwork is key if we are to secure better lives for those returning from conflict areas in the Middle East. The Department of Foreign Affairs can only do its best to bring these workers home. Once they are home, the local governments in partnership with the labor department and other institutions, should take over,” the former labor undersecretary pointed out.
Families with relatives in Syria that are interested in attending the dialogue at the DFA can get in touch with the Blas F. Ople Center through its hotline: 833-5337 of via SMS thru: 09158435498.