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Asia

Libya better than unemployment for Filipinos

Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario makes a last call to convince Filipinos there to go home. Many have chosen to risk their lives in Libya rather than face unemployment back home.

Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) choose to risking their life in Libya over unemployment

Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) choose to risking their life in Libya over unemployment

Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario has made a last call to convince Filipino workers in Libya to leave the strife-torn country as the situation continues to worsen each day.

Filipinos urge their government to ensure the safety of Filipinos in Egypt, but many workers chose not to leave

Filipinos urge their government to ensure the safety of Filipinos in Egypt

Philippines’ foreign affairs department says during his last visit, Del Rosario escorted 31 Filipinos from the Libyan capital of Tripoli to the border in neighboring Tunisia. The group joins 23 repatriates brought out of Libya's capital on Monday by Ambassador Alejandro Vicente, who are now in Djerba, Tunisia awaiting repatriation.

30 more, including 19 Filipino students in Tripoli, are set to arrive in Djerba on Thursday, which is the government's last schedule for voluntary repatriation, according to the department of foreign affairs update.

The department says 1,600 of 2,000 Filipino nurses have decided to stay in Libya along with around 100 Filipino professors. It says many of the workers prefer to stay in Libya, where they have been promised higher wages amid the violence there, rather than face unemployment at home.

Many Filipinos chose to stay back

"I think we're safe here," says one nurse. "Our employer promised to take care of us and told us that if worse comes to worst, we will be housed in the hospital and provided with everything we need for free, on top of salary increase."

Another admits that she would not readily give up her salary ranging between 4,500 to 6,000 Libyan dinar, equivalent to about 3,000 euros.

Even qualified Filipino doctors chose to become nurses abroad to earn higher wages

Even qualified Filipino doctors chose to become nurses abroad to earn higher wages

Most Filipinos have been promised an increase in their salaries for staying, while others have been told they would lose entitlement to gratuity pay equivalent to one full month's salary if they do not finish their contracts.

"Many want to go home, but they preferred to stay in Libya because there are no job opportunities in the Philippines," one of the Filipino leaders told Secretary Del Rosario at a meeting in the Philippine Embassy in Tripoli.

More than the air strikes on different parts of Libya, the Filipino workers there are concerned about problems with remitting money to their families and have asked how the government could help them in their remittances. Secretary Del Rosario has promised to put a mechanism in place for sending remittances through the Philippine Embassy.

Anger back home

More than 9,000 Filipinos have returned from Libya since March 18, according to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

"Another 1,000 to 2,000 Filipino migrant workers are expected to return to the country from Libya this week," according to OWWA head Carmelita Dimzon’s statements to the local media. "We've gotten word that some of them are now in Malta and Tunisia, waiting for their connecting flights to Manila. We're closely coordinating with the DFA."

Migrant workers wait at the Philippine embassy

Migrant workers wait at the Philippine embassy

Meanwhile, the political coalition, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) in the Philippines has attacked both Malacañang (the President’s office) and the department of foreign affairs for coming up with allegedly inaccurate reports on the government's evacuation program for overseas Filipino workers.

Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of Bayan says the government "should come up with an honest report on the evacuation: how many have been evacuated, how many remain and what contingencies are in place for those remaining in Libya," adding that "the evacuation becomes more urgent now with the UN Security Council's resolution on the "no-fly zone" already in place.

Sherpem Sherpa (AP/Philippine government releases)
Editor: Sarah Berning

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