Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the violence-free Kurdistan region of Iraq are appealing to the Philippine government to lower the alert level status and lift the deployment ban it imposed in January 2020 following violent protests outside the United States Embassy in Baghdad at that time.
The appeal was contained in a series of letters sent to the Philippine Embassy in Iraq by Annie Astillo, an OFW representing the Samahang Manggagawa ng Kurdistan (SMK).
In the letters furnished by migrant workers consultant Emmanuel Geslani Thursday, the Filipino workers in Northern Iraq are specifically urging the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to lower the Alert Level status from 4 to 3.
This action, they said, would allow OFWs who are currently stranded in the Philippines due to the deployment ban to be processed under the Balik Manggagawa status and be able to return to their workplaces in Kurdistan.
According to Geslani, many OFWs working in Kurdistan were actually vacationing in the country during the holiday season in 2019-2020 when the government suddenly imposed the deployment ban.
“Many of them were not allowed to return to Kurdistan by the POEA and eventually lost their good-paying jobs in Erbil, capital of Kurdistan,” Geslani told the Manila Bulletin.
In their exchanges of email communications, the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad informed the OFWs that their letters of appeal have been forwarded to the DFA but no action has been taken so far, at least for the last one year and eight months now.
Geslani said hundreds of OFWs intend to come home during this coming Christmas but fear losing their jobs in case they are not allowed to return to Kurdistan due to the current deployment ban.