Manila (ILO News) - Sustainable return and reintegration support services for Thai and Filipino migrant workers were showcased in a Conference today, held under the auspices of a technical cooperation project implemented by the International Labour Organization (ILO), with support from the European Union (EU).
Since February 2009, as part of an overall Asia Regional Labour Migration Programme, the ILO-EU Return and Reintegration Project served as the response to the plight of Thai and Filipino migrants, including victims of trafficking, from the EU and its neighboring countries.
The Project focused on improving the capacities of countries of origin and destination, while enhancing the coordination and referrals between them. To reach this aim, the Project adopted a two-pronged strategy aimed at supporting service providers to deliver better and more coherent and comprehensive direct assistance in both the EU countries, as well as in Thailand and the Philippines.
Migrants, who have been exploited abroad, including victims of trafficking, often face severe difficulties upon return, particularly in terms of decent livelihood opportunities. As a consequence, a large proportion, in some cases up to 75 percent, chooses to re-migrate, putting them at risk of re-trafficking and exploitation. This is often the case when return and reintegration programs do not squarely address the needs of return migrants, especially those who have had negative migration experiences.
To date, significant progress was noted in the implementation of project activities in Thailand and the Philippines – from institutional development initiatives to direct assistance to return migrants who have experienced abuse and exploitation including victims of trafficking.
The Project was able to provide the platform and the means for key national and local migration stakeholders to discuss and address issues and challenges affecting return and reintegration particularly on enhancing coordination between them. At the same time, more return migrants were identified, processed, assisted and extended with various services.
In the Philippines, key migration stakeholders identified coordination issues that resulted in practical arrangements not only between national and local authorities but potentially between Philippine authorities and service providers in destination countries. The Project works with the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and its attached agencies and staff bureaus, including the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, which is primarily mandated to protect and promote the welfare of Filipino migrant workers; the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (OUMWA) of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), and other relevant national government agencies, non-government organizations and other migration stakeholders.
The Project contributed to the roll-out of the National Referral System and Philippine Anti-Trafficking Database through support to training for anti-trafficking focal persons of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and key service providers, including those of the Project’s geographical focus. Training for local service providers in target areas were conducted as well.
The work with a few pilot local governments in the Philippines has raised the consciousness of local authorities on the critical role they play in the overall labor migration governance. With the sustainability of project outcomes in mind, the project supported the advocacy for the inclusion of labor migration issues in local development planning through the formulation of local migration and development plans and the creation of local support mechanisms for the reintegration of return migrants. This led to the adoption of a local plan in La Union through a multi-stakeholder cooperation. This initiative is now being replicated in the provinces of Ilocos Sur and Nueva Ecija.
Further, migration and development provisions have been included in the Philippine Development Plan which is centred on inclusive and sustained growth. The ILO supports this goal of achieving sustainable, inclusive and greener growth through decent and productive work mechanisms.
In addition, the PDP recognizes the contribution of migrant workers to the economy through remittances but acknowledges their contribution and need to create and expand local employment opportunities. Thus, it strongly confirms that the welfare and protection of millions of Filipinos working overseas is paramount.
With the growing concern over the recruitment of seasonal migrant workers from Thailand and their working conditions in some countries, project activities in Thailand focused on addressing the issues confronting these migrant workers, while remaining within the project’s overall context. The signing of a Letter of Understanding (LOU) on ILO-Department of Employment (DOE) Cooperation on recruitment practices and protection of migrant workers on 26 May 2010, following months of preparatory work, is a way to sustain many initiatives. The project supported the implementation of the LOU through a work programme that seeks to address recruitment malpractices and the reintegration of return migrants.
Materials and manuals on safe migration and pre-departure orientation were developed and disseminated and trainings were given to return migrants and jobseekers. An online mechanism for reporting complaints is being developed. A code of conduct among recruitment agencies was formulated. Multi-disciplinary teams were organized at the local level to ensure holistic interventions for migrants.
The participation of three key agencies such as the Ministry of Labour (MOL), Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security (MSDHS) in addressing the problems of seasonal migrants through the LOU technical working group demonstrates their common resolve and aspiration for the protection of Thai migrant workers.
Return migrants, jobseekers and would-be migrants had been reached and benefited from the Project. Legal assistance and various psycho-social and other social services were provided to return migrants. Start-up capital was granted to a number of them after going through business counseling services, mentoring and skills trainings. A large number of seasonal migrant workers from Thailand have received safe migration and pre-departure orientation, ensuring that they receive appropriate and timely information about overseas migration as well as an idea on where to seek assistance where necessary.
Without doubt, the current ILO-EU migration project proved that community-level reintegration programmes for returning migrant workers are crucial to prevent recruitment malpractices, which include the risk of human trafficking.
This Conference sought to provide a venue for sharing emerging/ potential good practices and lessons learned by the Project’s implementing partners in addressing the economic and social empowerment of returned migrants, including exploited or trafficked persons, from the EU and neighboring countries, toward their full recovery and reintegration.
For further information please contact:
Mr Mitchell Duran
National Project Coordinator (Philippines), Going back – Moving on
Economic and Social Empowerment of Migrants
Tel: +63 2 580 9903 / 580 9900
Ms Minette Rimando
ILO Country Office for the Philippines
Tel: +63 2 580 9905 / 580 9900