Participants of the three-day Regional Roundtable on Reducing Migrant Vulnerabilities in Times of Crisis in Southeast Asia workshop under the Migrants in Countries in Crisis (MICIC) Initiative organized by the UN Migration Agency and the Philippines Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO). Photo: Ray Leyesa / UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017

Manila – IOM, the UN Migration Agency and the Philippines Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO), earlier this week (18-20/09) held a three-day workshop in Manila, during which six ASEAN countries shared experiences, discussed key steps and messages for crisis preparedness, emergency response, post-crisis action. The workshop concluded with field visits to the CFO and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

The event, the Regional Roundtable on Reducing Migrant Vulnerabilities in Times of Crisis in Southeast Asia under the Migrants in Countries in Crisis (MICIC) Initiative, was organized to facilitate a discussion on migrant inclusion in disaster management systems in Southeast Asia. The MICIC Initiative is an intergovernmental consultative undertaking created to address the impact of crises – conflicts and natural disasters – on migrants.

The Philippines-hosted event was attended by delegations from Thailand, Viet Nam, Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar who reflected on their experiences and explored new ways to better provide support and protection to vulnerable migrants in countries experiencing crisis.

Undersecretary Claro Arellano, Legal, Legislative and International Affairs, Department of Labor and Employment, in his opening message said, “Workers who are well-informed are well protected. And countries in Southeast Asia can foster strong collaboration to ensure that our workers are not only saved in times of crisis but in maintaining posture of readiness, alertness, and preparedness.”

Atty. Raul Dado, Executive Director, Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs, emphasized the importance of planning and preparing for a crisis in countries of destination to solve problems of crisis and to be inspired and enriched by these experiences towards assisting victims.

IOM Philippines Chief of Mission Marco Boasso, in his message to the delegates, noted the significance and timeliness of the event. “The Southeast Asia region is highly dynamic in terms of mobile people with about 18.8 million documented as living or working overseas, from individual to collective cross-border sub-regional flows.”

Boasso added, “In the first six months of 2017 alone, there have been 60 disaster/emergency incidents which affected almost 22 million individuals and the cost of reported damages amounted to USD 18.6 million. For the past decade (between 2005-2015), the region had been struck by more than 1,600 disasters, affecting over 1.4 billion people.”

Atty. Esteban Conejos, Jr., former Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs of DFA shares practical information and lessons learned on emergency evacuation and repatriation of overseas Filipinos Atty. Maria Roseny Fangco, Director of DFA-OUWMA with Nathalie Hanley of IOM Bangkok and John Abo of Asian Disaster Preparedness Council responds to questions during the Panel Discussion on the Regional Context of Migrants Vulnerabilities and Crisis Management.

The use of social media as a vital tool in engaging the migrant diaspora was affirmed and advocated by the countries present. On the use of social media, Rupert Ambil from the social news network Rappler said, “It ensures the flow of critical and actionable information to those who need it before, during, and after disasters and connects those who need help directly with those who can truly help.” 

Alex Dougan, from IOM HQ presented MigApp, which is an application developed to provide migrants with migration-related information to allow migrants to make informed decisions, at the same time provide data to feed into future migration-related programming and studies that will help IOM to proactively respond to emerging issues.

Ms. Ivy Miravalles of CFO moderates the table discussion on emergency response with participants from Cambodia and Lao PDR during the World Cafe activity. A participant from Cambodia posts his answer during the workshop on communication and core messaging.

During the conference, participants also recognized that effective crisis response requires innovative partnerships. Participants acknowledged the critical role of the broad array of actors –in civil society and the private sector, in delivering assistance that ensures the safety, dignity and well-being of migrants.

The need to leverage the collective power and resiliency of migrants in the development of crisis preparedness and response measures was emphasized throughout the roundtable event. Everyone agreed that States and other actors must develop a comprehensive policy and strategy that works towards migrant-inclusive solutions that are empowering for migrants, and recognizing their resilience before, during and in the aftermath of crises.

“The Civil Defence Volunteers are based in their community and are on stand-by to be summoned at any time. Now there are approximately two million volunteers nationwide,” said Saharat Wongsakulwiwat from Thailand’s Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation in advancing the potential of mainstreaming migrant workers in the DRR process.

Speaking on behalf of the CFO, Officer-in-Charge Maria Regina Angela Galias underscored the invaluable contributions of the participants in changing the migration narrative into a more positive tone. “The focus of our work and advocacies should be on people – not just numbers, targets, and statistics; because it is our obligation, because it is urgent, because it cannot be just business as usual,” she said. “This is our shared responsibility as one region under the ASEAN.”

Launched in 2014 at the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) in Stockholm, the MICIC Initiative is co-chaired by the Philippines and the United States, and supported by a Working Group comprised of the governments of Australia, Bangladesh, Costa Rica and Ethiopia, the European Commission, IOM, UNHCR, ICMPD, Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of International Migration, and the Office of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for International Migration.

The event was funded by the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) of the US State Department.

For more information, please contact:
Ma. Christina Marfil, IOM Philippines, Email:
Regina Galias, Commission on Filipinos Overseas, Email