Type of practice: Government bodies
Name of Stakeholder: Government of the Philippines
Type of Stakeholder Implementing the Practice: State of Origin
Type of crisis: Conflict, Natural Disaster
Crisis phase: Crisis Preparedness, Emergency Response, Post-Crisis Action
Related Links: OWWA
The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) is an attached agency of the Department of Labour and Employment (DOLE) created in 1977. Is it the lead government agency tasked to protect and promote the welfare and well-being of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and their dependents. It is present in 31 overseas posts in 27 countries. It also has its regional presence in seventeen regions. The OWWA is a membership institution. For a US$25.00 membership contribution, an OWWA member is entitled to various benefits and services. Membership can be obtained by enrolment upon processing of a contract at the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) or by voluntary registration of a would-be member at job sites overseas. OWWA membership, either through the compulsory or voluntary coverages, shall be effective upon payment of membership contribution up until expiration of the employment contract. The member is covered for a maximum of two years after which the membership has to be renewed.
OWWA offers core and secondary services. Core programs include a repatriation program, health and life insurance, and worker assistance for settling work-related disputes and fraud. OWWA is also mandated to maintain an Emergency Repatriation Fund to evacuate OFWs in case of wars, disasters, or epidemics. It also provides members with life and personal accident insurance while abroad. Additionally, OWWA offers programs and services in its offices abroad, including counselling for distressed workers, paralegal services, and low-key diplomatic initiatives. Secondary services help migrants, before and after departure, and the families left behind. These include education and training, reintegration programs, and pre-departure loans to defray the cost of pre-departure requirements; family assistance loans for emergency purposes; livelihood loans to improve access to entrepreneurial development opportunities upon the migrants’ return.
- Empowering migrants
GUIDELINE 3: Empower migrants to help themselves, their families, and communities during and in the aftermath of crises
In order to help themselves and others and to enjoy their rights, migrants need access to identity documents, basic public services, and financial and other resources. Migrants’ ability to help themselves and enjoy their rights can be undermined by factors related to their entry and stay, means of arrival, connections to local populations, and conditions in the host State, including in workplaces. These factors can in turn undermine emergency response and recovery efforts.
States, private sector actors, international organizations, and civil society can promote migrants’ resilience and empower migrants to help themselves during and after a crisis by addressing underlying conditions of vulnerability. Respecting, protecting, and fulfilling migrants' human and labor rights in ordinary times advance these goals as do efforts to ensure migrants are able to access information, basic services, and administrative, judicial, and other redress mechanisms.
Legal, policy, and operational factors that constrain protection should be addressed. Examples of obstacles include laws, policies, and practical barriers that arbitrarily restrict the movement of migrants, enable arbitrary detention, discriminate between migrants and citizens in the provision of humanitarian assistance, or permit exploitative employment or recruitment practices.
In times of crisis, fear of immigration enforcement can inhibit migrants, particularly those in an irregular immigration status, from accessing necessary help. In this context, it is important to separate immigration enforcement actions from those that promote migrants’ access to services, humanitarian assistance, identity documents, and movement.
Stakeholders can provide migrants—prior to departure from the State of origin, upon arrival in the host State, and during their stay in the host State—with pertinent information related to country-specific conflict or natural disaster hotspots, rights and potential rights violations or abuses, ways to access timely, credible, and regular information, emergency contact points, and what to do and where to go in the event of a crisis. Building migrants’ skills to communicate in the host-State language and increasing migrants’ financial literacy may prompt migrants to invest in savings, take out micro-insurance, and better prepare for navigating unforeseen circumstances.
- Pre-departure and post-arrival training for migrants that includes crisis-related information.
- Positive communication about migrants, including through migrant role models and campaigns to promote tolerance, non-discrimination, inclusiveness, and respect.
- Financial products, including micro-insurance, savings accounts, and fast-cash loans that target migrants’ needs, including low-income migrants.
- Measures that respect, protect, and fulfill migrants’ human and labor rights, including addressing barriers that inhibit migrants’ ability to enjoy their rights.
- Identity cards for migrants in an irregular immigration status to promote their access to services.
- Ethical recruitment processes and accreditation, and integrity certification schemes.
- Community-based alternatives to detention for migrants.
- Contingency planning
GUIDELINE 5: Involve migrants in contingency planning and integrate their needs and capacities
States, employers, recruiters and placement agencies, international organizations, and civil society have contingency plans and procedures to react to and mitigate the risks associated with crises. Many States of origin have contingency plans to assist their citizens abroad. If contingency plans do not exist, they should be developed during the pre-crisis phase to provide sufficient time to consider and test options.
Contingency plans should take into account and integrate migrants’ presence, potential needs, and capacities. Plans should anticipate migrants’ requirements for relocation, evacuation, communication, emergency shelter, food and non-food relief, health care, and psychosocial support. Plans should address ways to identify and respond to the needs of particularly vulnerable populations, such as migrant children, including unaccompanied and separated children, children of migrants in an irregular immigration status, migrant victims of trafficking, elderly migrants, and migrants with disabilities. Plans should also address the protection of migrants in detention. Contingency plans should be flexible, actionable, clear, and adapted to relevant regional, national, and local dynamics.
Involving migrants and civil society in the preparation of contingency plans can be particularly useful. Migrants and civil society can identify circumstances where targeted approaches are necessary to address the specific needs of migrants, such as language requirements. Employers and recruitment and placement agencies should be involved in contingency plans for migrant workers and their families.
Regularly updating and testing contingency plans can also be helpful to identify gaps and weaknesses in actions towards migrants and to ensure those charged with protecting migrants have the authority and capacity to do so. Joint contingency planning between emergency response actors and those working primarily with migrant populations can facilitate resource sharing and common understanding of risks, migrant populations, and local infrastructure. Contingency plans can include a crisis management structure that identifies responsibilities of different actors.
- Multi-stakeholder contingency plans to share resources and capacities to assist migrants, including by undertaking multi-stakeholder asset mapping exercises.
- Crisis alert systems that monitor crises in host States and direct authorities to act based on the intensity of the crisis, such as obligation to evacuate migrants.
- Evacuation plans that set out clear rules and criteria for carrying out evacuations, such as document requirements and eligibility for evacuation.
- Emergency drills involving migrants to test contingency plans and identify obstacles and challenges.
- Inter-agency contingency plans that take into account migrants’ potential needs in crises.
- Capacity building
GUIDELINE 8: Build capacity and learn lessons for emergency response and post-crisis action
Limited resources, funding, and technical skills can all affect the robustness of emergency and post-crisis responses. Understanding and assessing these limitations is a critical first step towards overcoming them. Stakeholders’ investment in their own capacity to improve emergency response and post-crisis recovery for migrants is critical.
Capacity building may relate to such varied areas as consular services, training for responders, resource allocation, funding mechanisms, insurance schemes, relief goods and services, border and migration management, and relocation and evacuation. Many of these areas are relevant for both the emergency and post-crisis phases. Stakeholders should also consider addressing potential reintegration challenges for migrants, their families, and communities, facilitating re-employment, income generation, and safe remigration, and supporting migrants to access outstanding wages, assets, and property left in host States.
States, private sector actors, international organizations, and civil society should assist one another to build and improve their capacity to respond. Undertaking advocacy, monitoring and evaluations, raising awareness, conducting training, sharing information, building research and knowledge, and supporting and learning from each other all help to improve collective efforts to protect migrants.
- Training and capacity building of stakeholders, such as on effective ways to access migrants and identify vulnerability and needs.
- Dedicated funding to protect migrants, including budget lines, loans, and funding platforms.
- Referral mechanisms that map rosters of experts who can address diverse needs of different migrants.
- Peer-to-peer exchanges for capacity building and learning on tackling challenges associated with protecting migrants.
- Training for consular officials, such as on collecting information on citizens and crisis management, including evacuation.
- Monitoring and evaluation of crisis responses that includes analysis of responses towards migrants.
- Relocation and evacuation
GUIDELINE 13: Relocate and evacuate migrants when needed
During some crises, stakeholders may be able to protect migrants where they are located in the host State. But this may not always be possible, especially in situations where the repercussions of a conflict or natural disaster envelop large geographic areas. Where protection cannot be provided locally, it may be necessary to relocate migrants to other parts of the host State or evacuate them to States of transit or the State of origin. Some migrants may make these journeys on their own. Many may rely on States, their employers, recruiters, or placement agencies, international organizations, civil society, and other migrants for support and assistance.
Evacuation is generally a last resort but absolutely essential if migrants cannot remain safely where they are and cannot be relocated safely to another part of the host State. Where comprehensive contingency plans and standing evacuation and relocation arrangements are not already in place, ad hoc arrangements may be needed to communicate evacuation information, determine eligibility for evacuation, establish modes of evacuation, and negotiate with States of transit and other actors. States, regardless of whether they are party to relevant international instruments, should implement specific safeguards to ensure individuals who face persecution, or, as appropriate, serious harm or other life-threatening situations in their States of origin or other States, including refugees, are protected against refoulement. Stateless persons may need specific assistance to take advantage of evacuation arrangements. Coordination between States and other stakeholders in carrying out evacuations can leverage resources, for example, to transport migrants to States of origin in the same region.
- Evacuation of migrants to States of transit or States of origin with their informed consent.
- Establishment of criteria for eligibility for evacuation.
- Multi-stakeholder cooperation on evacuation.
- Evacuation for family units who have family members of different nationalities.
- Deploying personnel to consular posts to assist with evacuation.
- Support migrants’ recovery
GUIDELINE 14: Address migrants’ immediate needs and support migrants to rebuild lives
The dislocation and disruption created by conflicts or natural disasters can have significant and severe consequences for the socio-economic wellbeing of migrants and their families. Migrant workers often support themselves and their immediate and extended families, whether they are with them in the host State or in States of origin. Conflicts and natural disasters can stem the flow of income to migrants and curtail remittances to their families. Technical facilities to remit money can be disrupted. Currency devaluations and changes in exchange rates can affect migrants’ savings and assets. Education opportunities for student migrants can be indefinitely suspended. Xenophobia and discrimination against migrants may increase. Post-crisis conditions in host States and States of transit may allow trafficking of persons and other exploitative arrangements to thrive.
Migrants and their families who return to States of origin after prolonged stays in a host State can experience difficulty finding employment and housing and reintegrating. Reintegration may be especially difficult for victims of trafficking, individuals who experienced sexual and gender-based violence in the host State, children born to migrants in host States who have no experience of the culture in the parents’ State of origin, and migrants who have been abroad for extended periods of time. Possible interventions include cash assistance to address immediate needs, psychosocial counseling, health care, physical rehabilitation, family tracing services, assistance to recover outstanding wages, assets and property, compensation to address losses, and much more. Efforts to restore income for those migrants who return to their States of origin may include certification and recognition of skills, education, and training acquired abroad. Many migrants may seek opportunities to acquire new skills upon return. For various reasons, including to revive their incomes, others may seek opportunities to remigrate back to host States once the crisis has subsided or migrate to other countries.
Migrants who remain in their host States can also experience difficulty resuming their previous lives. They will require many of the same support services as migrants who return to their States of origin, such as cash assistance, health care, psychosocial and other counseling, family tracing, compensation, assistance to recover outstanding wages, assets, and property, and efforts to restore income, employment, and education opportunities. Like citizens, migrants’ post-crisis needs should be factored into host State recovery plans and programs at the national and local levels. States may decide to review immigration and visa rules to provide latitude for migrants who wish to remain in the host State to do so legally. Efforts that leverage the solidarity of migrants who remain in host States towards their host communities and societies could counteract xenophobic and discriminatory attitudes.
Access to remedies to recover lost property and assets, outstanding wages, pensions, and other benefits.
Engagement of migrants in host-State reconstruction efforts.
Flexible immigration procedures to enable migrants to retain regular immigration status.
Registration, assessment, and recognition of returned migrants’ needs and skills.
Immediate reintegration support, including cash and medical assistance.
Income and employment regeneration assistance, including assistance with remigration.
Certification mechanisms for skills, education, and training acquired abroad.