Number of stranded expatriates drops sharply

There has been a significant decline in the number of stranded Filipinos on Kish and Queshm islands of Iran as well as in Buraimi and Khasab in Oman.

OMAN.30th September 2008.VISA RUN. The Hili border crossing between Buraimi and Al Ain. Stephen Lock / The National.  *** Local Caption ***  SL-visa-009.jpgSL-visa-009.jpg
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ADU DHABI // Thousands of people remain stranded in neighbouring countries after attempting so-called visa runs, though diplomats said the situation is improving. "The worst is already over," said Laureano Santiago, the consul general at the Philippine embassy in Iran. In September, 3,500 Filipinos were stranded in Iran and 2,700 were in Oman while waiting for their UAE visas to be able to re-enter the country. Mr Santiago said the number is now about 1,500 to 2,000 on Kish island, while less than 350 are on Qeshm island. There are six Filipinos on Kish island, and seven on Qeshm, who signed affidavits that essentially state their intentions to return home. "These people will not be able to return to the UAE," Mr Santiago said. "Our move is to purchase air tickets for them. They are getting desperate and stress levels are building." He added that there were many "fence-sitters" waiting for any announcement from the Philippine government. Claro Cristobal, spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila, said there was some funding available for its nationals in Iran and Oman. "Funds have been authorised for immediate food [and] medical assistance for Filipinos stranded," he said. "Funds will also be used for their planned repatriation. The DFA is now co-ordinating with our embassies in Muscat and Tehran on details of repatriation." Kish Airlines has offered to provide free air tickets to stranded Filipinos. Naser Rezvani, managing director and chief executive of Kish Air Travels, said he had been talking to consulate officials in Dubai about helping. He said Kish Airlines was prepared to take people who had been stranded on the island for more than a month. In Oman, Lamberto Monsanto, the consul general at the Philippine embassy in Muscat, said the number of stranded Filipinos in Buraimi was 1,400, with 51 more in Khasab. "At least 400 Filipinos have been stranded in Buraimi since September," he said. Romeo Yang, the labour attache in Oman, recently met representatives of placement agencies in Muscat to explore employment options for stranded Filipinos. "We still have to get a clearance from the Oman Ministry of Manpower so they could get jobs here," he said.