Opening address at the Qatar Visa Center Roundtable Discussion

By Khalid Hassan, Director, ILO Country Office for the Philippines at the Qatar Visa Center Roundtable Discussion, 26 September 2019, Manila, Philippines

Statement | Manila, Philippines | 26 September 2019
  • Mr Bernard P. Olalia, Administrator, POEA;
  • Mr Mohammed Abdulla Khalifa Al Mohannadi, Director Immigration Department, Qatar Ministry of Interior;
  • Mr Mohammed Ali Al Meer, Expert, Qatar Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs;
  • Our partners from the government, workers and employers organizations;
  • Representatives of the civil society, and project partners;
  • Distinguished guests,
  • Ladies and gentlemen, good morning!
International labour migration is increasing every year as we live in a highly globalized world. There are no signs of a reverse trend in the near future. Labour mobility, while being a positive development as such, comes at a price if it not well governed.

Once migrant workers travel across international borders, their basic rights may be restricted and they may face a range of social and economic injustices. In some cases, these abuses amount to forced labour and trafficking in persons.

To protect Overseas Filipino Workers, the Philippines has ratified ILO Conventions on migration, including ILO Convention 189 on decent work for domestic workers that triggered its entry into force. The Philippines has also ratified the International Convention on the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.

The Philippines also served as the chair of the ASEAN in 2007 and in 2017. While there are a number of opportunities to seize, the new administration, under the leadership of President Duterte has placed assistance to Overseas Filipino Workers as one of the priority areas of the government.

The Qatar Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Administrative Development, Labour and Social Affairs yesterday launched the “Qatar Visa Center” in the Philippines. This initiative is part of a broader commitment of the State of Qatar to ensure fair recruitment and protection of Overseas Filipino Workers in Qatar. The Philippines is the sixth country where the Qatar Visa Center has been established.

Today, we are given the opportunity to learn more about this innovative initiative and share our collective feedback, because we believe that through this round-table discussion, we will:
  • collect feedback on the challenges facing Filipino job-seekers during their recruitment to Qatar,
  • foster social dialogue and ultimately,
  • ensure the implementation of the Qatar Visa Center based on local insights that put premium on international labour standards and core human rights instruments.
The Integrated Programme on Fair Recruitment, or the FAIR Project, is an ILO project supported by the Swiss government, and supports this initiative of the State of Qatar, in close collaboration with the ILO Project Office in Qatar.

FAIR Project is global in scope, which aims to implement innovative pilot interventions in key migration corridors such as Philippines-Hong Kong, and now, Philippines-Qatar.

The overall strategy of the FAIR project is based on three pillars:
  • Establishing fair recruitment corridors to prevent the exploitation of migrant workers
  • Providing migrant workers with access to reliable information on labour recruitment options and services
  • Produce and disseminate new knowledge about recruitment and engage with the media.
This year, the ILO celebrates its Centenary, marking 100 years of advancing social justice and promoting decent work. The world of work faces unprecedented changes such technological changes, climate change, demographic and migration shifts.

The Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work adopted this year by governments, workers and employers, highlights the need for a human-centred agenda. It reaffirms the ILO’s mandate to protect all workers, including migrant workers by increasing investments in people’s capabilities, in institutions of work, and in decent and sustainable work.

Migrant workers who borrow money or pay high recruitment fees face an increased risk of abuse, including forced labour. The ILO aims to enhance knowledge on effective recruitment practices, improve laws, policies and enforcement mechanisms, promote fair business practices, and empower and protect workers.

Reducing the costs of migration is one of the UN Secretary General’s 8-point Agenda in 2013 to make migration work for all.

The agenda called upon the need to ratify and effectively implement relevant international legal instruments including ILO Convention on domestic workers and to lower the costs of migration. Countless migrants pay their life savings, and those of their families, to unethical recruiters and end up in debt bondage. Imagine what we could achieve if those funds were “put to work” for development - to send a child to school, pay for a medical visit, or start a small business as then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pointed out.

The ILO Private Employment Agencies Convention, 1997 (No. 181) sets the standards internationally on the regulation of recruitment.

A key feature of the ILO’s Integrated Programme on Fair Recruitment is the development and adoption of the “General principles and operational guidelines for fair recruitment.”

These FAIR Principles contribute towards improving national policies and legislation and guide governments, businesses, social partners, UN agencies and civil society actors in their work on promoting fair recruitment.

The Philippines has been a leader in Asia in developing legislation and policies to reduce abusive and fraudulent recruitment practices, particularly for migrant workers.

I hope the FAIR project is able to further support similar innovative practices that simplify migration procedures and contract processing to address issues, such as contract deception and substitution.

Each of you has invaluable insights that the Qatar Visa Center in the Philippines could draw lessons from. I would thus wish you a successful discussion for this morning.

Thank you and Mabuhay (long live)!