Opening address at the Fostering the social and professional reintegration of returned migrants

By Mr Lawrence Jeff Johnson, Director, ILO Country Office for the Philippines at the Fostering the social and professional reintegration of returned migrants, Tagaytay City, Philippines, 14 July 2014

Statement | Tagaytay City, Philippines | 14 July 2014
  • Honourable Secretary Baldoz,
  • Director Muñoz of the National Reintegration Center for OFWs,
  • Representatives from the government, employers’ and workers’ organizations, national professional organizations
  • Decent Work across Borders project partners,
  • Colleagues from the ILO Turin and Manila,
  • Ladies and gentlemen, magandang umaga sa inyong lahat (good morning to all of you)!
Welcome to this training seminar on the social and professional reintegration of returned Filipino migrants.

The Philippines is as one of the source countries for migrant workers, and health professionals in particular.

Migration is sometimes a permanent decision. In 2012, the Commission on Filipino Overseas estimated that there are nearly 10 million Filipinos established permanently around the world.

Migration, however, is also seen as a temporary journey especially for those who left their families behind. It is a journey with many phases, often in various countries, with an eventual return to their home countries. Ideally, a voluntary return.

In 2012, the POEA estimated that 2 million Filipinos migrated for work. Return migration has become a preferred strategy for governments. Positions on return migration of source and host countries however vary, and often depend on the skills divide.

Recently, there has been an increased awareness of potential impact of international mobility of highly skilled workers from less developed countries - a phenomenon affecting the health sector.

Source countries see the return of skilled migrant as a potential source of development. Host may countries may wish to retain skilled migrants but may have a different approach to the other groups of migrants.

On the other hand, some countries, and Europe in particular, may want to view voluntary return migration as a way to lessen "brain drain" or increase the brain circulation between developing and developed countries.

Varying views and definitions of return migration is among the challenges to overcome to attain an harmonized approach. Indeed, migration and return migration are complex phenomenon.

One point of agreement is that voluntary return is more cost effective than forced return and is certainly more aligned with a rights-based approach to migration.

Return migration, however, remains one of the least considered aspects in migration policy, despite its socio-economic significance. The Philippines is leading the way through its National Reintegration Center for OFWs.

Many also view that the best instances of return migration are those that take place on individual, unassisted basis. It should be a personal decision taken by migrant workers based on their understanding of quality of life, economic, or political improvements in home countries.

As stated by President Aquino, migration should be an option. And return migration should also be an option made by migrant workers based on, for example, access to decent employment opportunities, with competitive remuneration and benefits; access to social and health services; quality of education for children; and overall quality of life in the country.

The debate on return migration is open!

Our meeting today and this week’s training are opportune as we focus on ways to facilitate voluntary temporary or permanent return of migrants for the benefit of all.

Decent and productive work in the Philippines is key to the return of migrant workers.

The ILO promotes a holistic and multidisciplinary approach to locate return policies across borders, within a broader rights-based agenda. Collaboration between source and destination countries is essential to ensure, for example, social protection benefits and skills recognition across borders.

Collaboration between government agencies responsible for education, certification, migration, investments, health, and enterprise development - to name a few - is critical.

I am glad to see in the room today, a wide representation from those diverse agencies which bodes well for the development of policies and programmes for returned migrants.

Let me acknowledge the joint efforts of the National Reintegration Center for OFWs, the ILO’s International Training Center and the DWAB for making training possible.

Director Munoz of the NRCO, Miriam from the ITC and other resource persons will join you throughout the week along with our DWAB team - Catherine, Jennifer and Joy who all worked hard to organize this training.

Let me also thank the European Union for its financial support to the ILO and its migration agenda, through the Decent Work across Borders project.

This training is the first step towards joint efforts of DWAB and the NRCO to address challenges on return migration. Your active participation is crucial. I also look forward to your continued collaboration as we look at best ways to support the voluntary return of Filipino migrants.

I wish you all a productive discussion and fruitful training.

Thank you and Mabuhay!