COVID-19 Impact Assessment on Returned Overseas Filipino Workers

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The ongoing global COVID-19 crisis and border restrictions continue to have an adverse impact on human mobility with migrant workers and their remittance-dependent communities being some of the most vulnerable groups. In 2020, the Philippines saw a drastic 75% reduction in the deployment of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), which constitutes the lowest deployment numbers in over three decades. Meanwhile, the number of Returning Overseas Filipinos reached nearly 800,000 by the end of December 2020.

Recognizing the devastating impact of COVID-19 on migrants and their livelihoods, the Government of the Philippines must be sincerely commended in their immense e$orts to protect Filipinos around the world during this crisis. The Department of Foreign A$airs (DFA) was relentless in their e$orts to repatriate hundreds of thousands of stranded Filipinos in over one hundred countries around the world, while the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Department of Labor and Employment’s Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) worked tirelessly to provide immediate assistance upon their arrival, including testing, accommodation, and onward transportation to their homes throughout the Philippines.

While COVID-19 was !rst and foremost a health crisis, it has reinforced the need to strengthen migration governance and international cooperation adhering to the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM). The Philippines was a leader in advocating for the adoption of the GCM in Marrakesh in 2018, where Secretary Teodoro Locsin of the DFA reminded the world of the bene!ts of migration, and at the same time called upon us all to protect migrants against exploitation and abuse, appropriately calling the GCM a “compact of decency.” Since then, the Philippines has also been recognized as one of twenty Champion Countries of the GCM, and President Rodrigo Roa Duterte was the !rst global leader at the United Nations General Assembly in 2020 to call upon all States to implement the GCM in the COVID-19 response and recovery, “leaving no migrant behind”.

As the Coordinator and Secretariat of the UN Network on Migration in the Philippines, IOM has conducted various studies on the impact of COVID-19 on migration. With the support from the OWWA, IOM carried out the following assessment on the needs and vulnerabilities of OFWs returning to their communities of origin in the Philippines. We hope that these !ndings will support key stakeholders in continuing to develop migrant-centered policies and programs with the most recent and relevant information. Such evidence-based programming will ultimately enhance e$orts to respond to the immediate needs of migrants while ensuring the sustainable reintegration of returning migrants, their families, and communities.