Manila lauds swift rescue of Filipinos kidnapped in Iraq

Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano with Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir. File photo courtesy: DFA
Updated 09 July 2018

Manila lauds swift rescue of Filipinos kidnapped in Iraq

  • The Embassy estimated that there are 4,000 Filipinos working in Iraq, with around 3,000 based in the Kurdistan region
  • The DFA continues to work to secure the release of three Filipino technicians abducted in Libya during the weekend

MANILA: The Philippines confirmed on Monday that the two Filipino women abducted in Iraq last week have been rescued and some of their captors arrested.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Allan Peter Cayetano expressed gratitude to authorities in Iraq for the swift and successful rescue of the two Filipinos who were reportedly seized by armed men last Friday.
In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the Iraqi authorities informed the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad on Sunday that the two were under police custody after they were rescued in Diyala Province, north of the capital, on Saturday.
“We thank God for the successful rescue of our two kababayan (countrymen),” Cayetano said after he was informed of the development.
“Their safe recovery would not have been possible without the swift response of our Iraqi friends and for that we are very grateful.”
Citing a report from Chargé d’Affaires Julius Torres, the DFA said the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad was informed by authorities in Diyala province that the two were rescued from members of a criminal group who forcibly took them.
Torres said Iraqi authorities told the embassy that several members of the group had been arrested during the police rescue operation and that charges were being prepared against them.
Torres said the embassy has requested Iraqi authorities access to the two rescued women and the two other Filipinos who were earlier reported to have been taken into custody after escaping from the same armed men.
Earlier reports indicate that the four Filipinos came from Irbil in the northern Kurdistan region and were on their way to Baghdad when their vehicle broke down along the highway in Uzem District between Kirkuk and Diyala where they encountered armed men in a yellow car.
The women were then forcibly taken by the armed men after their driver abandoned their vehicle. However, two of the four women were reportedly able to escape.
Torres said the Embassy would request custody of the four women as soon as the police investigation is concluded so that they can immediately be repatriated.
A DFA official said they could not release the names of the four women without consent of their next of kin.
The Embassy estimated that there are 4,000 Filipinos working in Iraq, with around 3,000 based in the Kurdistan region.
Reports note that there has been a surge in violence and abduction incidents by remnants of Daesh since Iraq declared victory over the terror group last year.
Meanwhile, the DFA continues to work to secure the release of three Filipino technicians abducted in Libya during the weekend. The Philippine Embassy in Tripoli said the three Filipinos were among four foreign nationals taken by armed men from a waterworks project site Friday.
Chargé d’Affaires Mardomel Melicor said armed men entered the construction site located 500 kilometers from Tripoli early morning Friday and took five foreigners and four Libyans from their quarters.
Melicor said the armed men later released one of the foreign workers and all the Libyans.
Earlier reports indicate that apart from the three Filipinos, a South Korean national was also abducted by the armed men during the raid at the water plant south of the capital of Tripoli.
Reports further state that kidnapping has become a lucrative trade in Libya amid the breakdown of authority.
The DFA has likewise declined to release the names of the three Filipinos abducted in Libya without the approval of their families.


Lampedusa mayor slams Rome over migrant boat standoff

Updated 22 August 2019

Lampedusa mayor slams Rome over migrant boat standoff

  • “The island no longer exists politically. It is just exploited in political clashes in Rome.”

LAMPEDUSA, Italy: The mayor of Italy’s Lampedusa island on Thursday denounced the collapsing government for its failure to deal with migrant rescue boats, as a ship carrying 356 people remained stranded in the Mediterranean.
Mayor Salvatore Martello said the reception center on the tiny isle was already over capacity and would struggle to house migrants currently stuck aboard the Norwegian-flagged Ocean Viking.
The vessel, run by charities Doctors Without Borders and SOS Mediterranee, has sought a port for almost two weeks after rescuing four boats of migrants off the Libyan coast between 9 and 12 August.
“It would be difficult because the reception center is saturated,” Martello told AFP.
“The island no longer exists politically. It is just exploited in political clashes in Rome.”
Lampedusa has long been a magnet for African migrants fleeing poverty and conflict.
Thousands have attempted to make the unsafe crossing from Libya in a bid to reach Europe this year, despite efforts to deter them.
Italy’s far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has been accused of demonizing migrants and leaving them to drown in the sea.
He has repeatedly insisted that rescued migrants can only land in Italy if other EU countries take them in.
Italy’s president on Thursday was holding a second day of talks after the disintegration of the anti-immigrant coalition government, which broke down after the resignation of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Tuesday.
The plight of the migrants aboard the Ocean Viking, which was denied entry by both Italy and Malta, is the latest in a string of migrant boat standoffs with Italian authorities.
The Open Arms rescue ship was allowed to land in Lampedusa on Wednesday, with 83 migrants disembarking, after Italian justice ordered they be brought ashore.
Many of them had spent 19 days on board the ship after being picked up while in difficulty in waters off Libya.
There were initially 147 mainly African migrants on the ship but all minors and some suffering health problems had already disembarked.
A European deal to redistribute them has yet to be implemented.