OFWs in Iraq’s Kurdistan region seeks lifting of deployment ban

More than a thousand Filipino workers in Iraq’s Kurdistan region on Monday asked the Philippine government to lift the deployment ban on the country’s Northern territory so they could come home for Christmas.

The Department of Foreign Affairs enforced a worker deployment ban to Iraq in January 2019.

In a letter to the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad, the Samahan ng mga Manggagawang Pilipino asked the government to lower the security status from Alert Level 4 to Alert Level 3 for Kurdistan, saying it is an autonomous region far from capital Baghdad and other Iraqi cities, where civil protests are ongoing.

Alert Level 4 – the highest security warning given by the Philippines on countries that pose security risks to Filipino travelers and workers due to armed conflict or disaster – was enforced by Manila after Iran fired rockets at Iraq’s al Asad airbase, which hosts US forces.

Iran retaliated against the US for killing its top commander, Qassim Suleimani, in an attack authorized by former President Donald Trump.

There are at least 1,600 Filipinos in Iraq. Majority are working in Kurdistan region and the rest are in the Baghdad area. In Baghdad, many are employed by the US and other foreign facilities, while some work for regular commercial establishments.

“Currently, situation here in Kurdistan even after the bombing in Erbil last 08 January was normal. The international airport is operating and open. Infrastructure projects, businesses, non-government offices, and governmental diplomatic and foreign offices are continuously open and operating,” the group said.

Hundreds of Filipinos in Kurdistan, they said, want to come home especially this coming Christmas season but they fear losing their jobs due to the Philippine travel ban to Iraq.

The group appealed to the government to reinstate the Balik Manggagawa Program, which exempts Filipino workers – currently on vacation or planning to go on vacation – to return to Kurdistan for work.

“Many of us here are currently working in good and safe condition,” the group said as it urged Manila to make repatriation of Filipinos in Kurdistan voluntary instead of the current mandatory evacuation order covering entire Iraq.—LDF, GMA News

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