Manila Declaration highlights commitment to assist labour migrants

Published: 19 May 2015 10:04 CET

By Kate Roux, IFRC

There are an estimated 232 million migrants worldwide. Of that figure, 52 to 100 million are labour migrants, of which 83 per cent are female domestic workers. These are women who work as caregivers for the elderly, looking after children or carrying the responsibility of cooking and cleaning for a household. These women are also often excluded from legal protection, with limited access to social services and health care.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), and a number of National Societies in the regions of Asia Pacific and the Middle East and North Africa, recognize that there is a potential to provide better humanitarian assistance to labour migrants – especially female domestic workers.

In order to identify the issues and solutions, the Philippine Red Cross and the IFRC hosted the Manila Conference on Labor Migration from 12-13 May 2015.

"We aim to engage with governments, communities and other stakeholders, and maximize our resources as a global network, so that we can contribute to existing efforts to provide better protection and access to humanitarian services for female domestic workers," said Jagan Chapagain, IFRC Director of Asia Pacific.

The Secretary General of Qatar Red Crescent Society, Saleh Ali Al Muhanadi, and Richard Gordon, Chairman and CEO of the Philippine Red Cross, led the opening of the conference alongside IFRC Secretary General, Elhadj As Sy and Jagan Chapagain.

As Sy said it was easy to fall into the trap of talking about migration as a political, economic, or security issue. “All our discussions about migration would benefit greatly if we put human beings at the centre,” he said.

One result of the conference is the Manila Declaration on Women Household Service Workers, which outlines a commitment by a number of National Societies to increase collaboration, and use its position as an auxiliary to influence their respective governments and other stakeholders, to assist and protect women migrant workers.

“We hope to provide first aid training to migrant domestic workers,” said Dr Fawzi Abdulla Amin, Secretary General of Bahrain Red Crescent Society. Dr Fawzi’s remarks demonstrate the type of work that the Red Cross Red Crescent network can offer to make a difference in the lives of labour migrants.  “Migration should be a successful experience,” he said in his conference address.

Following on from the Regional Think Tank on Inter-Religious and Inter-Faith Dialogue in Yangon – as part of the larger Doha Dialogue on Migration series – the Manila Declaration also outlines a commitment for National Societies to foster tolerance and cultural respect.

The Manila Declaration aligns with the Resolution on Migration adopted at the 31st International Conference in 2011, which states that irrespective of their status, migrant workers’ individual needs and vulnerabilities should be properly addressed, consistent with the principles of humanity and universality.

Richard Gordon, Chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, said the conference provided a good opportunity to highlight the Movement’s important work in this area. “We must continue to work hard. When the world is no longer watching, and media is not around, the Red Cross Red Crescent must remain. We will be there for the most vulnerable,” he said.

The Manila Conference is one part of an event series on labor migration called the Doha Dialogue on Migration. The events are being hosted throughout Asia Pacific and the Middle East North Africa from 2014-2015. For more information on the Manila Conference as other Doha Dialogue events please visit