President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the involuntary repatriation of all Filipino workers in Iraq as the threat of renewed war in the Middle East ratcheted up, with Iran responding to the U.S.’s killing of a high-ranking Iranian military official with rocket strikes on American bases in Erbil and Asad.
In a Facebook Live broadcast this morning, the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad’s chargé d’affaires, Jomar Sadie, said that the situation there is at Alert Level 4, the highest level in its system.
“The marching order given to us was mandatory repatriation,” Sadie said. He urged Filipinos to coordinate with the embassy and with their employers, from whom they can secure their exit visas and plane tickets to the Philippines. Those who do not have employers, or are victims of human trafficking, were encouraged to call or visit the embassy.
Sadie’s announcement was confirmed by Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Eduardo Meñez, who sent a message to several reporters that said, “The Alert Level in the entire Iraq has been raised to Alert Level 4 calling for mandatory evacuation.”
According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, there are almost 4,300 Filipinos living in Iraq, 4,000 of whom were undocumented workers. As of 2017, there were another 2,000 Filipino workers in Iran.
Tensions have been rising in the Middle East region after a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad killed Qasem Soleimani, the chief of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, which manages Iran’s overseas military operations. The Trump administration has said that killing the general was justified because Soleimani — seen by many as the second most powerful person in Iran — had been instrumental in past proxy attacks on Americans, and was planning more to come.
Duterte’s spokesman, Salvador Panelo, said yesterday that the president will support the Americans if Filipino workers were harmed in any potential war between U.S. and Iran.
Meanwhile, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III told radio station DZMM that he will send two officials to the neighboring countries of Saudia Arabia and Kuwait to discuss with Filipino workers what they should do if the conflict worsens.
Filipino workers in Iraq who need help can call the Philippine embassy at (country code +964) 07816066822, 07516167838, 07518764665, and 07508105240. They can also email the Embassy at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.