The travel from Rome to Manila for the Global Forum provided good research on migration.
From Rome, Filipinos, Sri Lankans were the passengers. The man sitting next to me, a Filipino, was on his way back to the Philippines after a holiday at his mother’s. He was going back to see his wife and little child, then to move to Qatar to work in the oil refineries. I asked him how family life was and he shrugged in a way of saying that is the way it is.
Happy with his work? Yes. Compared to rather sedentary Europeans, Filipinos seem to be a mobile community. And they have a system in place to govern migration. Licensed and controlled recruitment agencies, pre-departure training, labour attachés in many of the embassies in the country of origin to follow up complaints, a welfare programme which provides overseas Filipino workers among with a death and disability insurance cover, social work assistance, legal assistance, remittance services and repatriation of workers in case of war, epidemics, disasters and calamities and reintegration services for those who return. Every departing documented worker pays US$ 25 to a fund, which finances these services.
More than one million workers went through the system in 2007 according to the information provided in one of the Manila conference papers: “Protecting Migrant Workers” by Patricia A. St. Thomas (other interesting papers can be found on the Website of the Forum http://www.gfmd2008.org).
If the day to day practice live up to that, we will be able to verify that with a visit to the Episcopal Conference on the Care of Migrant Workers later on. However, in the above mentioned paper the problems are also mentioned. Some migrants still look for recruitment outside the official system, as they find the process cumbersome and the lack of regulations and protection mechanisms in the receiving countries.
Once I’d arrived, the welcome reception for the Civil Society Days was a good occasion to meet old and new friends and start the networking around the issue.
All our delegates had safely arrived and a highlight was the meeting with Caritas Philippines and its Vice-chair Bishop Danildo Gutierrez, which gave an insight in the problems of the country and his very down to the earth advocacy.
All in all the conference started with an energizing kick off.