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Philippines: Returnees (MDRPH025) DREF Final Report

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A. Situation analysis

Description of the situation

Since 15 February 2017, there was 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 were coming from the eastern part of Sabah such as Semporna, Tawau, Lahad Datu, Kunak, Sandakan-Romero and Sandakan-Kumunak. Previously, such repatriations were procedural and common place. However, since September 2016 this process was suspended as the vessel used to transport people from the detention centres in Malaysia back to Philippines sank. This lead to a large backlog of approximately 7,000 undocumented Filipino migrants in Sabah who were returned during a short period of time to clear the back log from February onwards. Based on the assessment conducted by PRC at the ground level, aside from undocumented Filipino migrants, there were also stateless people who were part of the returnees.

Considering the humanitarian impact posed by a surge in repatriations, IFRC launched the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF) on 31 March following Philippines Red Cross’ (PRC) request to support the immediate needs of the returnees. 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 identified as temporary accommodation, food, sleeping materials, hygiene items, medical support, psychosocial support and restoring family link.

Under this DREF Operation, PRC’s support was on a one-off basis in view of the large scale of returnees’ needs following the backlog of repatriations. Under normal circumstance, the National Society does not engage in providing significant welfare services to returnees in routine regular repatriations. Any operations that do take place are supported by the chapters directly and within the national capacity.
The DREF was extended by two months, from 30 June 2017 to 31 August 2017. The extension allowed the Zamboanga City PRC chapter to support the individuals who were not able to return within the initial timeframe of the operation due to issues of documentation and further problems in the transportation. Within the extended operational timeframe, of the 7,000people expected to be part of the increase in repatriation, 4,658 returnees actually arrived in the country. The majority of the back log is now cleared. The balance of returnees still held in the detention centres in Malaysia will be repatriated under the normal process. The repatriation activities still continue at a normal pace and the Philippine government continues to collaborate on the activity to support and reintegrate the returnees. The chapter is constantly monitoring the arrival of returnees and have provided blood and ambulance services to the returnees even after the operation has ended.

The majority of the Filipino migrant returnees returned to their respective relatives and places of origin except those who are stateless in status. Various Philippine government departments are supporting the gradual reintegration of these Filipino migrant returnees for their livelihood stability, political participation and social protection. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), in coordination with Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), has initially assessed and coordinated with DSWD to provide skills training to the returnees. To date, repatriation is still on-going. The stateless persons are now staying in the DSWD Processing Center for Displaced Persons (PCDP) shelter in which they are provided with humane treatment and with basic commodities. Prior to their deportation, in Malaysia, these people were requested to show legal documentation like national ID or birth certificate. If they can’t show any documents, there citizenship was determined through their ascendants. The Philippine government, through the DFA, will support these people with birth documentation.