Undocumented Pinoys use Croatia as gateway to Europe: envoy

By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

September 5, 2020, 8:05 pm

MANILA – Filipinos, mostly from the Middle East, are using Croatia as an entry point to Europe to work but without legal documents, Philippine Ambassador to Austria Maria Cleofe Natividad said Saturday.

"They are the most vulnerable kasi iyong kanilang employment contract, iyong kanilang papers ay hindi ayos. Sila ang mga kababayan nating mas naapektuhan nitong Covid pandemic (They are the most vulnerable because their employment contract is not processed properly. They're our nationals who are the most affected by the pandemic)," she said during the Laging Handa briefing.

Cleofe said the Philippine embassy in Austria, which has jurisdiction over Croatia, is focusing on this population for immediate repatriation.

At present, the embassy is coordinating with the Department of Labor and Employment to extend assistance to these Filipinos, she added.

Based on the latest data from the embassy, there are around 600 Filipinos living in Croatia, about 50 of whom are undocumented.

But Natividad said the figure may be higher than what was reported.

"Nakikita nila na dito sa Europa, madaming oportunidad. Ang entry point will be Croatia pagkatapos ay lumilipat sila sa mga ibang bansa na mas (may malaking) oportunidad katulad sa Italy or sa Alemanya so parang nagiging jump-off point (They see that there are more opportunities in Europe. Their entry point is Croatia then they will transfer to other countries like Italy or Germany, so it's like a jump-off point)," she said.

"Ang sinasabi namin, umuwi muna sa Pilipinas ayusin, at kung kailangan ma-redeploy, kung may pagkakataon uli at saka gawin sa tamang paraan (We told them to return to the Philippines to process their documents and if they needed to be re-deployed, do it legally)," she added.

Meanwhile, in Austria, Cleofe said most of the Filipinos are properly documented.

And as Covid-19 spread worldwide, Cleofe said the embassy continues with its information campaign for the Filipino community within its jurisdiction, including Slovenia and Slovakia.

"At the Department of Foreign Affairs, we also have an Assistance to National Standby Fund, which we use when there are Filipinos who are stranded and need shelter or assistance," she said. (PNA)