Manila: The Philippine government banned new deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to Iraq, due to escalation of unrest and bombings in the capital, following the withdrawal of the military forces of the United States last December, said a statement in Manila.
"A ban on the further deployment of OFWs is automatically imposed in coordination with the Department of Labor and Employment," the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement released on Wednesday.
The government raised alert level three over the state of unrest in Iraq, the statement said, adding, "Under this alert level, Filipinos who wish to leave Iraq are offered voluntary repatriation at government expense."
The government also issued a travel advisory and warned Filipinos in Iraq not to travel far from their base.
Philippine embassy officials in Baghdad were told to start meeting with the employers of OFWs who choose to remain in Iraq, said Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario.
Philippine Embassy officials were also instructed to urge all OFWs to avail of the Philippine government's repatriation offer, del Rosario said, adding, "We are fully committed to ensuring the safety and welfare of all our countrymen in Iraq."
All of Iraq, except Kurdistan, an autonomous region in the north, near Turkey, was assessed under a high alert level of disorder, said Manila's foreign ministry statement.
Some 471 OFWs are still based in Iraq, 192 in the Kurdish Region and 279 in other parts of Iraq, the statement said, quoting reports from the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad.
The number of undocumented OFWs in Iraq is not known, said the report.
Earlier, some 4,000 OFWs were working with the US military in Iraq. But after the US pull-out from Iraq last December, the number of OFWs there was dramatically reduced.
Violence in Iraq surged after the withdrawal of US military forces in December 2011, reports said.
There were 29 violent incidents between January 1 and 15, 2012, 14 of which occurred in Baghdad, reports added.