600 Pinoys stranded in US bases in Iraq

About 600 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are stranded inside United States base camps in conflict-torn Iraq because the Philippine government refused to lift the partial deployment ban it imposed there, a migration expert said on Friday.

Emmanuel Geslani, a migration and recruitment expert, said in a statement that the Philippine government’s refusal to lift the partial ban caused Filipino workers in Iraq to be stranded in the US bases.

“In view of the deployment ban imposed by the DFA [Department of Foreign Affairs] and POEA [Philippine Overseas Employment Administration], the Iraqi government has refused to issue them [OFWs] visas to allow them to go out of the camp as they will be imprisoned in case they move out of the base to go to Baghdad or cities near their job sites,” Geslani said.

“The OFWs in Iraq cannot also return to their job sites in case they go home for the holidays since they have no re-entry visas to that country as the Iraqi government imposed these restrictions since the DFA refuses to recommended to the POEA the lifting of the ban for those remaining workers inside US bases,” he added.

Earlier, Filipino workers there appealed to the Foreign Affairs department to recommend to the POEA the lifting of the ban.

There are about 2,000 US military personnel in Iraq training and assisting the Iraqi military stationed in four US bases manned by overseas workers.

A deployment ban remains in Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Afghanistan and Nigeria because they were declared as “unsafe” destinations for workers abroad.

The ban on several countries–Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Cambodia, Cayman Islands, Croatia, Dominica, India, Nauru, Pakistan, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Sudan, Tonga, Turks and Caicos, Tuvalu, US Virgin Islands, Vanuatu, Andorra, Bulgaria, Djibouti, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Georgia, Honduras, Moldova, Nicaragua, Samoa, Singapore and Thailand–was lifted after a review by the Foreign Affairs agency found them “compliant.”

In September 2011, the Overseas administration governing board allowed the partial lifting of the ban in Iraq and Afghanistan to enable over 6,000 Filipino workers from Afghanistan and 1,000 from Iraq to go home to the Philippines and return to their job sites.

But in February, the POEA again imposed a total deployment ban in Iraq because of the “expected surge of terrorism and sectarian violence . . . following the withdrawal of US military forces.” Only the Kurdistan region was exempted from the deployment ban. ___

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