139 abused workers in Lebanon return home to Philippines

May. 08, 2007

MANILA Charg d’Affaires, a.i. (CDA) Mariano A. Dumia of the Philippine Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon reported to the Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto G. Romulo that the Embassys overcrowded Welfare Center has emptied out as 139 Filipino workers, some of whom had been in the Center for as long as ten months, are scheduled to arrive in Manila at 2:45 p.m. today.

Some of these Filipinos had been in the Center for four to ten months. They were runaways, leaving their employers because of non-payment of salaries, maltreatment and other forms of abuses, CDA Dumia said.

The CDA added that among the runaways are Mr. Allan Anabu, the lone male runaway worker in the group, and two children, aged six and one, who are children of Filipinas with foreigners.

The mass repatriation of distressed workers was made possible after Secretary Romulo directed CDA Dumia to appeal to General Wafic Jezzini, Director General of the General Security (Immigration), to allow the workers to return home after their respective employers refused to cooperate in settling their employment problems. The repatriation program also made possible the travel to the Philippines of the two children, who otherwise would not have been able to leave Lebanon without the consent of their fathers.

CDA Dumia will accompany the Filipinos home, along with Col. Amal Wehbe and Maj. Anis Fayad, two Lebanese immigration officials who were invited by the Philippine Government as official guests. Vice President Noli de Castro and Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Esteban B. Conejos, Jr. will be at the NAIA to welcome the Filipinos home.

With the departure of the 139 Filipinos from Lebanon, only one newly arrived worker will stay at the once-congested shelter, CDA Dumia stated. This Filipino was not able to join the others going home because she was not able to make it to the final list submitted to Lebanese Immigration for the issuance of exit visas. CDA Dumia, however, gave assurances that the Embassy will exert all efforts to have the OFW cleared and repatriated to the Philippines at the earliest possible time.

The CDA related that, upon the announcement of their confirmed departure flight, the 139 Filipinos in the shelter yelled, clapped their hands, embraced one another, and shed tears of joy.

He said that the Filipinos were thankful to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the Embassy and the Philippine Government for the care and assistance extended to them for the past months. Finally, after many months of uncertainty and waiting, the Filipinos in the shelter are now happy, excited and eager to go home to be with their loved ones. Today is indeed a big day for the distressed workers and their families back home, the Embassy, and the Department of Foreign Affairs, CDA Dumia remarked.

Secretary Romulo welcomed the news that the Filipinos will at last be returning home. I am thankful that our fellow Filipinos, who have been in distress in Lebanon, are now returning home. I join the President and the whole country in welcoming them back, and assure our countrymen abroad that the Government shall continue to look out for their welfare, and take to heart its mandate to protect Filipinos overseas, the Secretary said. END

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