US Base Closures in Iraq Threaten Jobs of Hundreds of Filipino Workers

STAR / Walter Bollozos

With the United States planning to withdraw its forces from Iraq, hundreds of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are facing the prospect of unemployment, according to migration specialist Manny Geslani. An estimated 400 to 500 OFWs, employed by international contractor Kellogg, Brown and Root on behalf of the US Department of Defense, will likely be impacted by the closures of US bases in Iraq. These Filipino workers have been engaged in various roles including maintenance, logistics, catering, housekeeping, motor pool operations, and clerical tasks since 2011, following the Iraqi government’s request for US and NATO military support against the Daesh terror group. Recent discussions between the Iraqi and US governments have initiated the process for determining a timeline for the base shutdowns. This development follows a pattern seen when OFWs lost jobs during the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan under President Barack Obama. With over 4,000 Filipinos residing in Iraq, many of whom have family ties to Iraqi nationals, the impending job losses add to the challenges faced by the OFW community, already constrained by a Philippine government ban on worker deployment to Iraq.