Diaspora means the scattering or dispersion of a group of people to anywhere else in the world. Its history dates back to when the Jews were forcibly expelled and scattered after their captivity in Babylon. In terms of numbers, the Filipino Diaspora at 11 million now outnumbers the original Jewish Diaspora. Each year, the Philippines is sending out more than a million to work abroad through its overseas employment program. Every hour, some 100 migrant workers leave the Philippines. Overseas Filipinos are typically doctors, accountants, IT professionals, engineers, technicians, entertainers, teachers, nurses, seamen, military servicemen, domestic helpers and caregivers.
The role of more than eight million Filipino migrant workers often takes center stage when their remittances hit a record high: they reached USD 14.4 billion in 2007. Despite being called the countrys new heroes, they are subjected to various forms of abuses, exploitation and discrimination.
The Middle East hosts nearly 60 per cent of the total Filipino migrant working population. The region is also home to most of the reported cases of physical and sexual abuse, exploitation and inhumane treatment.
Capital cases in the Middle East and elsewhere only represent the tip of a massive problem which faces migrant workers overseas that cause some to commit crimes. Mostly however Filipinos overseas live and work peacefully despite their sometimes facing abusive, exploitative and sometimes inhumane practices and conditions.
The DFA reports no fewer than 31 cases of highly dangerous emergency situations since January 2006 that have involved a total of 9,500 Filipino workers.
In his recent visit to the Philippines, Prince Constantjin of the Netherlands who chairs The Hague Process on Refugees and Migration admitted that the west had to help developing countries address the issue of brain drain and social disruption caused by a continuing exodus of professional and skilled workers. The Philippines currently faces a shortage of skills in a whole range of areas not just nursing, dentistry or teaching.
The government here meantime needs to look beyond the positive impact of remittances and gauge the social impact of having millions of children growing up without mothers, public hospitals running out of doctors and nurses and remote schools in the barrios losing teachers.
In the short to medium term it helps to keep the country afloat as it is increasingly battered by energy and food crises, but in the longer term it does nothing to build real skills and capacity locally.
Click here to read more.