International Migrants Day: For Filipino Church, emigration destroys families
The Philippines is the Asian country with the highest proportion of citizens living abroad, 10,000,000 in all, or about 9 per cent of the total, spread in about 190 countries, 70 per cent women.
Unemployment is the main cause for this exodus, a problem that is growing. In 2009 alone, about 2.72 million Filipinos lost their job at home.
Experts note that about 2,000 Filipinos leave the country every day, mostly young people with little education or working experience. In a few years, this will mean that overseas Filipino will constitute about 11.7 per cent of the population.
The main countries of destination are the United States, home to about 3,000,000 Filipinos, but many are also reaching Europe, Japan, Hong Kong and the Middle East.
Often migrants face human rights violations in their host country. This is especially true in Arab world where women are often segregated in the homes of their employers for the duration of their contract.
Despite such problems, little or nothing is being done to stem the flow. One reason is that foreign remittances by Filipinos are a key component of the national economy. Just in the first ten months of this year, Filipinos sent home a total of US$ 14.3 billion. In October, they sent home US$ 1.2 billion; that is 6.7 per cent more than in previous months.
The Church has been actively involved in helping Filipino migrants since 1955 through the Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (ECMI), which provides assistance to those in need.
The Scalabrini Migration Center (SMC) in Manila is an example of what the Church is doing. It offers programs to educate and train young people who emigrate and missionary priests who go abroad to minister to Filipinos. Another example is the Child and Migrant Parents in South East Asia Programme, which provides spiritual support to children and parents of migrants.