Philippines tells nationals to leave Yemen

MANILA, March 10, 2011 (AFP) – The Philippines on Thursday told its 1,400 citizens in Yemen to leave the protest-wracked country because of increasing political violence there.

However, Manila said Filipinos based in the country should make their own travel arrangements for the time being even as the government struggles to wind down the evacuation of more than 26,000 Filipino workers in Libya.

A foreign department statement said Filipinos in Yemen were advised to restrict their movements and “voluntarily depart” if they could.

Foreign department spokesman Ed Malaya told AFP the latter term meant leaving Yemen without Philippine government assistance.

“Voluntary departure is when done by our nationals on their own,” he said.

“Voluntary repatriation is when done by the Philippine government for them,” he added.

Foreign Undersecretary Rafael Seguis said in a statement Filipinos there should monitor developments, keep communication lines open with the nearest embassy — in Riyadh — and inform community organisers of their whereabouts.

“Keep an emergency bag ready which contains clothing, water, canned goods and medicine for two weeks,” Seguis added.

The foreign department said it was also monitoring the situation in Saudi Arabia, where over one million Filipinos are based, but said so far it remained stable.

Meanwhile, Seguis told a news conference more than 13,000 Filipinos have left Libya, with more than 6,500 already back in the Philippines.

“The number of (Filipinos) crossing Libya’s border has significantly decreased,” he said. “Officials stationed around Libya are winding (down) the operation.”

He did not say whether those left behind had chosen to stay, although the International Committee of the Red Cross said thousands of migrants remained stranded on the Egyptian border.

Many of the Filipino workers who were flown out over the past two weeks had complained of a chaotic evacuation plan, with Filipino diplomats unable to help them in processing their documents as they fled across the border.

More than nine million Filipinos — around 10 percent of the population — are based overseas, and their dollar remittances have traditionally kept the economy afloat.

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