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Irregular Migration | Philippines |

Philippines Historical Development Immigration and Immigration Policies Emigration and Emigration Policies Citizenship and Naturalization Refuge and Asylum Irregular Migration Challenges and Future Development References

Irregular Migration

Michael R.M Abrigo

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Chinese nationals await their deportation at the offices of the immigration authority in Manila. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

Irregular Migration from the Philippines

Filipino workers who are given work permits in receiving countries, but are not registered as overseas workers in the Philippines are considered undocumented Filipino emigrants. Official estimates show that between 2000 and 2011 the number of Filipino emigrants in irregular status declined by 42 percent. From a high 1.8 million irregular migrant population from the Philippines in 2000, the number settled at 0.6 to 0.7 million between 2005 and 2010, then spiking to 1.1 million in 2011. The recent increase probably reflects the rise in the number of emigrant workers who lost their regular status by losing employment as a result of the recent world economic crisis, but decided to stay in their host country. Estimates show that in 2011 irregular migrants from the Philippines were largely confined in Southeast Asia, especially in Malaysia, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong, and in the US.

Illegal recruitment and human trafficking are important issues related to irregular migration from the Philippines, to which the government has provided remedies against. An inter-agency Task Force against Illegal Recruitment under the Office of the President was established in 2008, and reconstituted in 2011 to coordinate government initiatives to address illegal recruitment. New illegal recruitment cases filed have generally been on the decline since 2000, however, pending cases for disposition have been increasing, warranting mixed reviews on the effectiveness of the anti-illegal recruitment initiatives of the government. An inter-agency council was likewise established to combat trafficking in persons. It is noteworthy that while many irregular migrants from the Philippines are victims of illegal recruitment and of human trafficking, not everyone may be classified under such categories.

The island of Mindanao appears to be a major source of irregular migrants, especially in Malaysia and in the Middle East. Weak implementation of overseas employment regulations in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, compounded with strong historical and geo-political ties with destination countries, as well as internal conflict and poverty, has contributed to the situation. Immigration policies of receiving countries likewise play an important role in the flow of irregular migrants.

Irregular Migration to the Philippines

The flow of irregular migrants to the Philippines is not as well documented. The Bureau of Immigration estimates that about 250,000 illegal aliens resided in the Philippines in 1995. An amnesty program was implemented from October 1995 to March 1997 under the "Alien Social Integration Act" (RA 7919). An estimated 16,000 illegal aliens, mostly Chinese nationals, were granted legal residence status under the program. Similar amnesty programs were being proposed in Congress since 2007.

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Michael R.M. Abrigo is Research Specialist at the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS). The opinions expressed in this paper do not necessarily reflect those of the PIDS.
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