OFW helpline featured at migration fair in Brussels

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 03 2008 10:02 PM | Updated as of Dec 04 2008 06:02 AM

Information about the condition of an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in distress sometimes takes awhile, given their location abroad, before it reaches the concerned government agency or non-government organizations.

With the SOS SMS Helpline of Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA) and its OFW partners, distance is no longer an issue because “help is just a text away”.

The project has been recently recognized by the international community and selected to be showcased at the first “Migration for Development Knowledge Fair” from December 1 to 4 at Musee du Cinquantenaire in Brussels, Belgium.

In a letter sent to CMA Executive Director Ellene Sana by Richard Cox, program specialist of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Brussels, he said the fair is organized by the European Commission and the UN partner agencies as part of the new EC-UN Joint Migration and Development Initiative.

“The SOS SMS project works because of the committed networks and partners of CMA worldwide,” Sana said.

The CMA’s project will be part of an exhibition on Migration and Development Initiatives worldwide under the thematic area of migrants’ rights “to celebrate the work of civil society organizations and local authorities”.

Sana left Manila last Sunday to attend and share her group’s work to other participants at the fair.

The CMA launched the project in February 14, 2006. During its first year activation, the helpline’s intake of cases of distressed migrants increased by 500 percent, “with a thousand SOS SMS cases, or 86% of all cases of CMA for 2006”.

Of the cases, 66 percent were from Saudi Arabia. Sana attributed this to the fact that the project was an initiative of their OFW partners in Saudi Arabia– the SOS SMS - Pusong Mamon Task Force-anginyonglingkod.org.

“Another explanation is of course that we do have many distressed OFW’s in Saudi considering that 1 in 4 OFWs is in Saudi,” said Sana.

OFWs can access the helpline by texting - SOS <space> the message - and send to +63 9209 639767 (OFW SOS).