Forced repatriation of OFWs in Iraq to push through despite eased US-Iran tension

Maris Federez   •   January 9, 2020   •   533

Supporters of Iran-backed Iraqi Shiite armed groups popular mobilization forces gather around the coffins of slain Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and his companions during a funeral procession in Basra city, southern Iraq on 07 January 2020. Thousands of Iraqi Shiite people have joined the funeral procession in Basra for Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and the Four others killed in a US drone strike at the Baghdad international airport on 03 January 2020. EPA-EFE/STR

MANILA, Philippines — The mandatory repatriation of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in Iraq will push as planned even as the tension between the United States of America and Iran has begun to ease down.

Philippine Special Envoy to the Middle East Secretary Roy Cimatu announced that around 1,600 OFWs have manifested their agreement to the mandatory repatriation, with 29 saying they are ready to fly out of the country anytime.

Cimatu made the announcement on Thursday (January 9) during a press briefing before flying to Iraq.

The official said the government has already mapped up a contingency plan on having the OFWs flown out of Iraq to the Philippines.

“However, I was told that there are airlines that are still operating and these are really our contingency plan for their departure out of Baghdad in case that’s open.  They will resort to a land movement out of Baghdad probably to Amman, Jordan,” the official said.

Sec. Cimatu explained that the Philippine government will never be at ease on withdrawing its directive for mandatory repatriation of OFWs while the alert level in Iraq is still raised to 4.

Cimatu added that the current situation in the Middle East is still considered unpredictable.

“The problem is also the time of the attack. So we don’t have to wait for this to happen.  So we have to start now moving them out habang medyo open pa airtport, clear pa iyon mga kalsada […] I would still really suggest that we have to move them already even without any conflict pa,” he said.

The official further appealed to the Filipinos in Iraq to heed the government’s directive to evacuate.

All the OFWs, especially the undocumented ones, have to do is coordinate with the Philippine Embassy for them to be given the necessary assistance.

Meanwhile, Filipinos in Iran and Lebanon will no longer be covered by the mandatory repatriation.

In a statement, Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III said OFWs in the said countries are no longer in danger as the alert level has been lowered.

“Initially, the level of alert for Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon are the same—[Alert Level] 4. Although it was unofficial, I was informed yesterday that the alert level in Lebanon was put down to level 2 and I understand that there’s no more alert level in Iran,” Bello said.

The secretary, however, said deployment ban of first time workers to Iran and Lebanon remains and that the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) will stop the processing of applications for employment in the said countries. —(from the report of Aiko Miguel) /mbmf

U.N. expert deems U.S. drone strike on Iran’s Soleimani an ‘unlawful’ killing

UNTV News   •   July 10, 2020

The January U.S. drone strike in Iraq that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani and nine other people represented a violation of international law, a U.N. human rights investigator said on Thursday (July 9).

The United States has failed to provide sufficient evidence of an ongoing or imminent attack against its interests to justify the strike on Soleimani’s convoy as it left Baghdad airport, said Agnes Callamard, U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.

The attack violated the U.N. Charter, Callamard wrote in a report calling for accountability for targeted killings by armed drones and for greater regulation of the weapons.

Callamard presented her findings to the Human Rights Council, giving member states a chance to debate what action to pursue. The United States is not a member of the forum, having quit two years ago.

Soleimani, leader of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, was a pivotal figure in orchestrating Iran’s campaign to drive U.S. forces out of Iraq, and built up Iran’s network of proxy armies across the Middle East. Washington had accused Soleimani of masterminding attacks by Iranian-aligned militias on U.S. forces in the region.

The Jan. 3 drone strike was the first known incident in which a nation invoked self-defence as a justification for an attack against a state actor in the territory of a third country, Callamard added.

Iran retaliated with a rocket attack on an Iraqi air base where U.S. forces were stationed. Hours later, Iranian forces on high alert mistakenly shot down a Ukrainian passenger airliner taking off from Tehran.

Iran has issued an arrest warrant for U.S. President Donald Trump and 35 others over Soleimani’s killing and has asked Interpol for help, Tehran prosecutor Ali Alqasimehr said on June 29, according to the semi-official Fars news agency. (Reuters)

(Production: Cecile Mantovani)

China says it will retaliate against U.S. actions on Hong Kong

UNTV News   •   June 30, 2020

China said on Tuesday (June 30) it will take retaliatory measures in response to the United States’ decision to start eliminating Hong Kong’s special status under U.S. law.

“Intimidation will never work on China. The U.S. wants to use these so-called sanctions to obstruct China’s legislation process to safeguard national security in Hong Kong. This attempt has no chance of success,” said Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian at a daily news briefing.

Zhao did not specify which measures Beijing would take. The U.S. is halting defense exports and restricting Hong Kong’s access to high-technology products as China prepares new Hong Kong security legislation.

China’s parliament passed national security legislation for Hong Kong on Tuesday, setting the stage for the most radical changes to the former British colony’s way of life since it returned to Chinese rule 23 years ago. (Reuters)

(Production: Shubing Wang, Irene Wang)

Iran’s arrest warrant for Trump is a ‘propaganda stunt’ —U.S. official

UNTV News   •   June 30, 2020

U.S. Iran envoy Brian Hook said on Monday (June 29) that an Iranian arrest warrant for President Donald Trump and 35 others over the killing of top general Qassem Soleimani was a “propaganda stunt”.

Tehran prosecutor Ali Alqasimehr announced the warrants, asking Interpol for help, according to the Fars news agency.

Hook speaking in Saudi Arabia alongside Saudi minister of state for foreign affairs Adel al-Jubeir, said: “This is a political nature. This has nothing to do with national security, international peace, or promoting stability. It is a propaganda stunt that no-one takes seriously.”

The United States and Interpol both dismissed the idea of acting on such a warrant.

The United States killed Soleimani, leader of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, with a drone strike in Iraq on Jan. 3. Washington accused Soleimani of masterminding attacks by Iranian-aligned militias on U.S. forces in the region.

Alqasimehr said the warrants had been issued on charges of murder and terrorist action. He said Iran had asked Interpol to issue a “red notice” seeking the arrest of Trump and the other individuals the Islamic Republic accuses of taking part in the killing of Soleimani. (Reuters)

(Production: Mohammed Benmansour, Matthew Stock, Aiden Nulty)

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