The majority of Filipinos living and working in Syria have rejected a call by their government to return home amidst mounting violence in the Arab country.
Albert del Rosario, the Philippine foreign secretary, said only about one-tenth of the estimated 10,000 Filipinos in Syria plan to leave. Most of the others are choosing to stay in Syria despite fears that the nation is on the brink of a civil war after nine months of anti-government protests and a brutal crackdown by the state security forces of President Bashar al Assad.
Rosario suggested that many Filipinos would rather live in Syria due to poor job prospects in their native land.
Speaking to reporters in Manila following a visit to Damascus last week, Rosario said he met with two dozen Filipino community leaders and not a single one of them wanted to be repatriated. They choose to stay because of the economic opportunities offered there.
Bloomberg reported that only about 1,000 Filipino workers in Syria have accepted a $4000 offer by Manila to return them to the Philippines.
Many Filipinos are reportedly in Syria illegally and work as household help. Migrant traffickers often are used to get them to the Middle East.
The income generated by Filipino migrants represents a significant chunk of the country’s economy. The central bank estimated that remittances by workers abroad represent about 10 percent of the Philippines $200-billion economy. Such funds from the Middle East climbed by 6.2 percent in the first 10 months last year.
Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said last year that of the 4-million Filipinos working overseas about half of them are in the Middle East, principally Saudi Arabia.