Wednesday, August 09, 2006

IOM to evacuate 450 filipinos from Beirut

International Office of Migration (IOM) is to airlift some 450 Filipino workers from war-torn Beirut, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Wednesday.

The Filipinos are to be taken by bus across the Syrian border to Damascus, where they will board an aircraft for Manila, the DFA said.

The Filipinos are expected to arrive in Damascus in two batches on Saturday and Sunday. They will board the chartered flight for their journey back home next Monday.

The 450 Filipinos are currently huddled in a crowded evacuation center run by the Catholic church amid fierce Israeli raids targeting the militant group Hezbollah.

"All associated costs will be covered by the IOM. Individuals will also be provided with temporary accommodation at the IOM shelter in Syria," the DFA quoted Vincent Houver of IOM Beirut as saying.

Contingency plans are also being prepared for Filipinos in northern Israel, parts of which have been targeted by Hezbollah missile fire. Some 30,000 Filipinos work in Lebanon, with roughly the same number working in Israel.

President Arroyo had earlier issued an appeal to the international community for help with the repatriation of Filipinos in the conflict zone.

The IOM, an inter-governmental organization, seeks to provide humanitarian assistance to migrants in need.
Some 37 Filipino evacuees from Beirut arrived in Manila from Damascus Wednesday.

DFA spokesman Gilbert Asuque and Angelo Jimenez, Overseas Workers' Welfare Administration Deputy Administrator, met the evacuees at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 before noon.

Asuque said another batch of 119 evacuees will arrive Wednesday night at NAIA Terminal 2 from Hong Kong.

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