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In the world of migration, the Philippines is renowned as a major source country of global workers. From the 1970s, the number of Filipinos migrating to work abroad has followed an upward trend, with more than a million Filipino workers deployed annually to more than 200 countries and territories all over the world.
Because of the desire to uplift their living condition, many Filipinos travel abroad to work, and a significant number left the country without proper documents. These are the undocumented Overseas Filipinos (OFs) who are more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.
The DSWD, being the primary government agency responsible in providing protection and upholding the welfare of Filipinos wherever they maybe located, has conceptualized and implemented the International Social Welfare Services for Filipino Nationals (ISWSFN) Project in 2002. It is carried out through the deployment of social workers abroad who provide psychosocial interventions and other welfare and protection services to migrant Filipinos particularly the undocumented and the distressed.
The operationalization of the ISWSFN was initially by virtue of Administrative Order No. 57, s.2003, which was amended by MC No. 1, s.2012 and AO No. 7, s.2016 or the Guidelines in the Operation of the DSWD’s International Social Services Office (ISSO) in the Philippines and in Foreign Posts. Its aim is to ensure that the general welfare and rights of the Overseas Filipinos, primarily the undocumented and distressed Filipinos abroad and their families, are protected and promoted through the establishment of an effective and efficient system of SWAtt deployment and managing International Social Services Offices (ISSOs) both at the DSWD head office and in Foreign Posts.
The clientele of the SWAtts are the undocumented and distressed OFs and other Filipinos needing DSWD services who are:
• Victims of trafficking, illegal recruitment, rape/abuse/maltreatment by employers, kidnapping, and human-induced and natural disasters
• OFs with domestic/family problem in the host country and in the Philippines
• OFs with extra-marital relationship
• OFs in common law relationship
• Illegal entrant to the host country (“backdoor”)
• Overstaying (expired visa)
• Victims of Exploitation/Abuse/Maltreatment/Unfair Labor Practice/Confiscated Documents
• Accused/suspected of crime (under the custody of the Embassy, under the custody of relatives and friends, prisoners – crimes e.g. drugs, murder, robbery, etc., and detainees – absence/expired/fake legal document)
• Victims of natural and human-induced disasters (war,/armed conflict, political unrest, fire, earthquake, flooding, accident, and pandemic)
• Victims of Petty Crimes (Snatching/Robbery)
• Children in need of special protection (abused, abandoned, foundling, neglected, surrendered, orphaned, and on custody issue))
• Traveling Minors Accompanied by parents and other adults
• Filipinos applying for Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage (LCCM) Certificate (for provision of pre-marriage counseling)
• Filipinos needing information on DSWD services such as travel clearance for children and adoption
• OFs not in distress who participated in orientation sessions or capability building activities
The project employs the basic social work methods in managing the cases of undocumented and distressed OFs within the framework of the “One Country Team Approach.”
The following are the services and interventions which can be provided to overseas Filipinos in distress and the undocumented:
1. Psychosocial Services
• Counselling Services by either individual, group and family.
• Psychosocial processing (PSP)
• Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM)/Stress Debriefing (CISD)
• Socio-Cultural Activities
• Value Inculcation Services
2. Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS)
• Transportation Assistance for repatriation and transportation within the post and in the Philippines
• Medical Assistance through provision of limited financial assistance for payment of consultation/medical examination, laboratory fees, hospitalization, and purchase of medicines.
• Material Assistance which includes but not limited to clothing, sleeping blankets/supplies, hygiene kit, and food.
• Communication assistance through provision of cell card or free-phone calls for those who have no means of contacting with their families/relatives in the Philippines
• Temporary Shelter assistance
3. Pre-marriage/Marriage Counselling
4. Referral Services
5. Training/Capability Building Activities
6. Other Services needed by OFs
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