Evacuees’ woes seen piling up

Migration office warns of ‘vulnerabilities’

With more and more people leaving the typhoon-ravaged areas in Visayas, the International Organization for Migration has begun screening evacuees to protect them from human trafficking syndicates.

To the rescue. A medical team attended to the evacuees who arrived on Saturday at Villamor Air Base in two batches aboard a military cargo plane while their kinsmen (inset) waited at the grandstand. Over 10,000 evacuees have left the disaster zones in the aftermath of super typhoon Yolanda. SONNY ESPIRITU
At least 10,088 evacuees have arrived at the Villamor Air Base, the Social Welfare department said, but other estimates said up to 5,000 people a day are fleeing the disaster-hit areas.

On Saturday, some 500 evacuees from Guian, Easter Samar and Tacloban landed at Villamor Airbase aboard two C-130 military cargo planes, authorities said. A good number of the evacuees might have sought refuge in neighboring areas like Cebu and Negros.

The IOM has also warned of the vulnerabilities among those living in evacuation sites.

Findings by the IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix indicated poor access to food, water and sanitation in a number of sites in Tacloban.

Across a broad swathe of the Visayas, some 387,000 displaced people are now living in 1,550 temporary sites, the IOM said.

In Tacloban alone there are 44 such sites housing 15,500 individuals. Many people are also living in informal settlements in and around the city.

The majority of those being airlifted out of Tacloban are flying for the first time in their lives.

IOM is assisting through its Migration Outflow Desk, established on Sunday 17th November at Tacloban’s badly damaged airport.

IOM works with the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), in collaboration with UNHCR and the Salvation Army to screen the evacuees.

Over 1,000 people have passed through the Migrant Outflow Desk from Tacloban city alone in the past five days.

Some 80 percent of evacuees are headed to Manila, where they have family or friends.

“We’re gathering demographic details of passengers, their intended final destinations and whether or not they will have an income to live on when they arrive where they want to go,” Tya Maskun, head of IOM’s Tacloban office, said.

“We plan to replicate the system across the affected area as quickly as possible, as there is clearly a danger of individuals being trafficked,” she said.

“Others are making their way to Manila by boat and by road,” Maskun said.

An estimated 1,000 people are leaving from Guiuan, one of the worst affected towns, every day.

Most of the 800 or so people leaving Tacloban every day arrive in Manila and are met by family or friends. But others are not so fortunate and have been staying in a growing tent camp near Manila’s Jesus Villamor Air Base, the IOM said.

Almost half of those leaving screened by IOM have no means of financial support, the IOM lamented.

Social Welfare’s Corazon Soliman sought the help and understanding of local government units in Metro Manila and called upon them to extend public service to the refugees.

The Visayas is an area known for human trafficking and the authorities are concerned that the enormous disruption to daily life caused by the typhoon of 8th November may be exploited for criminal purposes, in particular child trafficking, the IOM said.

In addition to those in shelters, there are another 3.94 million people staying with host families or on the site of a damaged house, while the country remains in typhoon season. With Frank Tuyay


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