Ethiopia learns from the Philippines labour migration experience

A high-level delegation from the Ethiopian government has visited the Philippines to learn from the country’s experience in managing labour migration.

The Ethiopian government delegation visited the Philippines foreign affairs ministry on 27 February. During its six-day visit, the Ethiopian foreign ministry delegation learned about best practices to help deal with labour migration from the Philippines authority for migrant workers affairs.

The Philippines’ migrant workers act that serves as the main framework for the protection of migrant workers. That, along with other protection policies and programmes were presented to the Ethiopian delegation. Effective coordination methods between agencies and gender sensitivity perspectives used in the Philippines were also presented to the Ethiopian team.

The groups discussed ideas on effective migrant workers management. The Ethiopian delegation also expressed its interest in continued communication with the Philippines to benefit from experiences in protecting migrant workers. Both countries have populations of around 105 million each and have millions their citizens living as migrants.

The Philippines is one of the world’s leading exporters of labour. According to the Filipino government, more than 2.3 million Filipinos live abroad. The vast majority of the country’s migrant workers pass through the appropriate government agency that deals with labour migration. Irregular migration from the Philippines is rare.

Migration has also been a phenomenon in Ethiopia in recent years. However, as many Ethiopian migrants face situations of fraud, abuse, and trafficking, the country declared a ban on the migration of domestic workers in 2013. When the ban came in to effect, there were around 460,000 Ethiopian workers in the Middle East.

Not all of the Ethiopians in the Middle East work there legally. Some do not have passports or visas and arrive in Arabian Gulf countries by crossing the Red Sea from Djibouti to Yemen and then travelling on land to find employment in countries like Saudi Arabia.

Hundreds die on the journey to reach the oil rich Gulf countries or are left stranded in war torn Yemen. The most recent tragedy involving Ethiopian migrants happened when a boat collapsed near the north eastern coast of Djibouti killing 52 Ethiopian migrants who were hoping to reach Yemen.

When they reach their destinations, Ethiopian migrants suffer abuse as undocumented workers at the mercy of their employers. When they return home voluntarily or due to forced deportation, many are empty handed and are distressed from the inhumane treatment they suffered for months or even years.

In 2018, Ethiopia passed a new law to regulate recruitment agencies and open training centres to prepare migrant workers before they leave. The centres provide information on basic rights, cultural norms and basic communication in Arabic. Ethiopia has also signed or is drafting agreements to sign bilateral labour agreements with the top five Middle East destination for Ethiopian workers, namely Kuwait, Jordan, Qatar, the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

TMP – 22/03/2019

Photo: Stanislav71/Shutterstock. A group of migrant workers at a construction site in Dubai, August 2018.