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Philippines: Returnees - DREF operation update No. 1 - DREF operation n° MDRPH025

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DREF update n° 1: 15 June 2017

Timeframe covered by this update: 31 March 2017 – 25 May 2017

This Operation Update informs the extension of the operation’s timeframe by two months (until 31 August 2017). The extension allows the chapter in providing support to the individuals who are not able to return within the initial timeframe of the operation due to issues on documentation and transportation.

A. Situation analysis

Description of the situation

Since 15 February 2017, there has been a rapid increase in the number of Filipino returnees from the state of Sabah in Malaysia arriving in Zamboanga City, Mindanao. Most of the returnees are coming from the eastern part of Sabah such as Semporna, Tawau, Lahad Datu, Kunak, Sandakan- Romero and Sandakan-Kumunak. While repatriations were procedural and common prior to the increase, the sinking of a vessel that previously transported the returnees prompted suspension of the exercise in September 2016. The suspension led to a backlog of repatriations of approximately 7,000 undocumented Filipino migrants in Sabah.

As of 26 May, a total of 2,382 returnees have arrived since the exercise started on 15 February.

Following the arrival of sixth batch of returnees on 22 March, the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) leadership and Zamboanga City chapter determined that they needed to increase their capacity to respond to the needs of the returnees. On 23 March, the leadership of PRC communicated formally to seek support from the IFRC Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF). The request was made after a dialogue between the PRC national headquarters, PRC chapters in Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Zamboanga City, local government counter parts and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Based on assessments conducted through key informant interviews with returnees, the immediate needs were temporary accommodation, food, sleeping materials, hygiene items, medical support and psychosocial support.

By mid-April, the number of returnees began to slow down and PRC have now requested an extension of the operation timeframe until 31 August 2017. There are two main reasons. Firstly, the flow of returnees has slowed down due to congested shipping lines transporting the returnees from Sabah to Zamboanga and the expected number of 7,000 returnees is yet to be reached. Secondly, on 25 May, the Government of Philippines declared a state of Martial Law due to the Marawi crisis which may have an impact in the future.

The extension will also allow PRC to undertake an internal review of the response and lessons learnt workshop. Considering the local context of key information who will be involved in the review and lessons learnt workshop, it is appropriate that these activities are undertaken after the end of Ramadan.