Migrant rights and case management
PERSPECTIVE - Cherry Piquero-Ballescas (The Freeman) - April 25, 2019 - 12:00am

As a labor-sending country, is the Philippines protecting its migrants in terms of their rights and welfare? Are there laws and agencies that migrants and their families can turn to for protection? Are our migrants themselves informed about their rights and do they know where to go in case of problems related to their pre-departure, in-site, and return situation?

Sadly, many of our migrants, even returnees, are not well-informed about their rights and about groups and laws/policies/programs that can protect them.

After Region 6, the Center of Migrant Advocacy (CMA) is now training Region 7 participants about migrant rights and case management from April 23-26. The training is in partnership with AWO Internationale.V represented by their Southeast Asia director, Mr. Jakob Littman, and Mr. Elivnce Sardjono, their program officer for Indonesia and Philippines.

Participants come from various representatives of land and sea-based migrant organizations from the provinces of Bohol, Cebu, Negros Oriental, and Siquijor. Of interest, there were only eight males among the 35 participants.

As an opening salvo, the participants were unprepared for the strong earthquake that greeted them. The hotel management guided them from the penthouse to a safer place down at ground level.

Shaken but not discouraged, the participants bravely returned to complete the activities scheduled that afternoon.

After introducing themselves and sharing their expectations, the participants were asked individually to draw, using pencils and Crayola, their image of a Filipino migrant on an A-4 white paper. There were those who drew the flags to indicate the countries of work of the migrants. Some drew a migrant or migrants with their families. Many drew faces of sad migrants or migrant in distress. The activity presented for the participants an initial display of the various faces of our migrants.

Another interesting activity that followed asked the participants to use colored stickers on a world map to indicate the various destinations of Filipino migrants. The Middle East and Asia had the most number of stickers.

Day 2 started with several groups of participants identifying the issues and concerns of migrants covering the various stages of migration, before departure, at work, and upon return. Ms. Ellene Sana, CMA executive director, next discussed the topic International and Philippine Labor Migration-Situation and Key Issues.

Using various data sources, including her rich wealth of personal experience, Ellene shared, among other information, that there are about 8-10 million Filipino migrants, with high percentage women, mostly in elementary occupations (including domestic work). Global and local push and pull factors influencing migration were mentioned. Ellene emphasized the importance of local initiatives, especially availability of jobs and sufficient salary, to keep our people from being forced to work abroad instead.

Her presentation of the Filipino Labor Migration Timeline, which showed the local and global organizations, agencies and laws as well as policies for the protection and welfare of our migrants throughout various years until the recent was very informative. Although having been migrants themselves, many of the participants were not aware about certain information presented in the timeline. For example, a number did not even know what OWWA stood for.

As entry point for the next important discussion about migrant rights, participants were asked to closely examine work contract details, as contracts contain vital information about work terms, work place and other work-related information valuable for their protection and rights.

Migration-related topics, like gender, social costs, governance and issues have also been lined up to guide and better equip the participants with sufficient knowledge and skills to better assist, inform, and protect migrants in their respective areas.

cballescas@yahoo.com

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