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Filipinos home from chaotic Lebanon, Iraq

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Returning OFWs from Lebanon are welcomed by DFA personnel at NAIA Terminal 3. (DFA)

The first batch of Filipinos who availed of the Voluntary Mass Repatriation Program of the Philippine Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 on Saturday morning.

The 36 Filipinos, including one infant, were welcomed by the Department of Foreign Affairs Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs.

Lebanon is currently under Alert Level 2 (Restriction Phase) following a looming economic crisis and the Iran-US tension affecting the Middle East region.

Before their departure from Lebanon, the repatriates received financial assistance from the DFA, through the Philippine Embassy.

Debt-ridden Lebanon is facing its most serious economic crisis since the end of its 1975 to 1990 civil war.

The country has been rocked by unprecedented, nationwide protests led by young people who blame government corruption and incompetence for the lack of jobs and basic services.

On Friday, four Filipinos from the northern province of Erbil, Iraq, also arrived in Manila, bringing the total number of Filipinos repatriated to 21.

Two of the repatriates were human trafficking victims and were endorsed to officials of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking.

“The recent arrivals is part of the efforts of the Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) that we deployed in Iraq,” DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola said.

Two RRTs were sent to Iraq—one in Baghdad and another in Erbil—to expedite the repatriation process.

More than 470 people have been killed in protest-related violence in Iraq since October, according to an AFP tally.

The protest movement took a serious hit in recent weeks as US-Iran tensions skyrocketed, threatening to overwhelm Iraq and eclipse the campaign for sweeping reform.

A US strike outside the Baghdad airport on 3 January killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani and a top Iraqi commander, infuriating Iraqi officials.

Since Alert Level 4 (Mandatory Repatriation) was raised in the entire country of Iraq on 8 January 2020,  a total of 13 arrived 15 January, two on 17 January, one from Erbil on 21 January and another from Basra on Thursday.

“Our Embassy and RRTs are under strict instructions to provide repatriation assistance to every Filipino who wishes to go home,” said Arriola.  (DFA, AFP)

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