States must take responsibility for labor export social costs on children left behind
October 30, 2008, Manila – Children left behind by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) expressed their plight, dreams and hopes through art, music and poetry in a Children’s Caravan held October 30 here. The Caravan is an initiative within the People's Global Action on Migration, Development, and Human Rights, a civil society-led event timed to coincide with the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) 2008 in Manila from 27-30 October.
It is part of larger initiatives by civil society groups to challenge governments and States to consider in their discussion the impact of migration on children left behind by migrant workers.
While there are efforts to address the problems of migrants themselves, few actions are made to support the increasing number of children left behind to cope, remain safe, and have a healthy childhood even as they grow up in this “new” type of family setting where one or both parents are away. Nor are there enough efforts to support the individual parents left behind to care for the children or to the alternative care givers like grandparents, aunts, and friends. There is a prevailing assumption that given their new financial capacities, the children and families of migrant workers are in situations that are better than the rest. But experiences show that this is not always the case. Long term separation from parents without having these children supported by other able and caring adults can be detrimental for children’s development, sense of well-being, and their future. It is time to calculate the social costs of labour migration and gauge whether the economic gains do in fact compensate the costs of having generations of children growing up in these new family settings.
In the Caravan, and during a series of art and cultural workshops held earlier, the children embodied through various art forms their desire to be reunited with their parents. They also expressed the social and emotional impacts of migration on themselves, which included: lack of parental care and communication; feelings of anger, depression and rebellion at their parents’ absence; social isolation, even among their relatives or extended family; lack of financial support and security.
The children in the Caravan also expressed their care and concern over the situation of their parents working abroad, asking their mothers and fathers to always take care of themselves and stay healthy; and, telling them of their wish to be reunited as families.
Last October 24, child rights organisations gathered with university students for debates on the impact of migration on children. The two debates – the debate on Economic Benefits versus Social Costs for Children of International Migration and the debate on Deportation and the best Interest of the Child- policy recommendations were placed forward to mitigate the negative impacts of migration on children. Concrete recommendations that address the plight of the children left behind included entrusting children to a designated parental authority to guard against placing children in vulnerable situations; allowing documented migrants to bring their families to the receiving countries eventually; and, providing child services with emphasis on coping techniques and the development of resiliency. The Council for the Welfare of Children endorsed the programme and the resulting recommendations.
This series of events are jointly supported by the UNICEF Philippines, Asia ACTs, the International Labour Organization's the Mekong Trafficking in Children and Women Project, and Save the Children UK’s Cross-border Project for the Protection of Vulnerable Migrant Children.