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Repository of Practices

Addressing Trafficking Cases of Overseas Filipinos

Primary GCM Objectives

Secondary GCM Objectives


GCM Guiding Principles*

*All practices are to uphold the ten guiding principles of the GCM. This practice particularly exemplifies these listed principles.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)


2018 - Present

Type of practice

Partnership/Multistakeholder initiative


The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) pursued cases to combat trafficking involving overseas Filipinos. This is anchored on one of the three pillars of the Philippine Foreign Policy: Protection of the rights and promotion of the welfare and interest of Filipinos overseas. The DFA is a member of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), the Philippines’ central coordinating body that monitors and oversees institutional mechanisms to protect and support trafficked persons. As part of IACAT, the DFA does its part in addressing and eliminating trafficking in persons especially to Filipinos overseas.

In the Gulf region, falling into vulnerable conditions such as trafficking is among the unintended consequences brought by the Kafala system, a traditional sponsorship system in the Middle East. Addressing Kafala garnered the support of no less than Philippine President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, whose pronouncements in his final State of the Nation Address called to address this. President Duterte also mentioned Kafala in the UN General Assembly. What once was not mentioned by States in the UN made it to the UN High Level Debate.

There is the case of two overseas Filipino workers who were survivors of trafficking and sexual exploitation committed by fellow Filipinos and foreign nationals in Bahrain. Both Filipina survivors gave their statements in the Philippines, and the suspects were later apprehended, prosecuted, and convicted in Bahrain.

Reports of trafficked Filipino women in Syria were also received in 2020. They were all undocumented workers who ran away from their employers and were eventually sheltered at the Philippine Embassy in Damascus.


Main Implementing Organization(s)

Government of the Philippines

Detailed Information

Department of Foreign Affairs – Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs

Partner/Donor Organizations

Philippine Embassy in Manama, Bahrain
Philippine Embassy in Damascus, Syria

Benefit and Impact

The case of Filipino trafficking survivors from Bahrain highlights the international collaboration of the Philippines and Bahrain in addressing trafficking and crimes concerning migrants. This is a first of its kind as the cooperation in seeking justice knows no geographical borders. This was pursued even without a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty between the Philippines and Bahrain. Rather, the Objective 23 of the GCM was used as a platform for the international cooperation and partnership.

With the filing of trafficking cases involving Filipino women in Syria, the Philippine Embassy in Syria received an unprecedented win for the first human trafficking case filed before the Damascus Court, making it a landmark judicial victory awarded by a Syrian Court in favor of Filipinos. The Syrian traffickers incurred a penalty of 500 thousand Syrian pounds, the highest amount ever meted out by a Syrian Court. Thus far in 2021, the DFA brought home 110 trafficked Filipinos from Syria, who were then assisted in filing criminal complaints against the traffickers both in the Philippines and in Syria.

Key Lessons

International collaboration in pursuing justice poses a lot of difficulties – language barriers, logistical arrangements, and harmonizing domestic and international laws, among others. However, the above cases exemplify triumph over these challenges. The Philippine government believes that such cases can be fought and eventually won as long as States have the political will to cooperate and seek justice. Most importantly, all stakeholders should look at the grand picture through the lens of human rights and basic decency for migrants as it is apparent in the said cases. It is in this recognition that no matter where the case happened or which nationalities were involved, a common ground of protecting victim-survivors and promoting accountability from traffickers should be the norm in addressing cross-border trafficking cases.

Recommendations(if the practice is to be replicated)

The Philippines recommends not only the international collaboration between States, but also the inter-agency collaboration in each State. As for the Philippines, our Embassies in foreign lands and the departments of foreign affairs and justice in the capital, among others, streamlined the government’s actions towards the case. The Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking is the Philippines’ primary body handling trafficking cases of overseas Filipinos, and having such institutional groups can bring about cohesive responses and engagements in addressing the cases.

States are further recommended to tirelessly pursue trafficking cases involving own nationals. Despite the hurdles, fighting for your people in the most vulnerable situations is always an act of strength and courage. It sends a message to the world that your government stands ready to protect its distressed nationals even if they are away from their motherlands. This is the kind of perspective that the Philippines hopes to embody and maintain long-term.

Ultimately, the goal of addressing trafficking cases is to prevent such events from happening again. The Philippines thus highly recommends that while we respond to these existing cases, continuous studies and dialogues with stakeholders should be conducted to identify factors and environments where trafficking thrives. This is a starting point for governments to prevent trafficking from unfolding and spilling its adverse effects to migrant workers. Moreover, combatting trafficking in persons cannot be done by one State alone. The indispensable cooperation of countries of origin, transit and destination is needed to stop this transnational crime.


These practices show the timely cooperation and cross-border efforts of involved States to pursue trafficking cases and to serve justice where it is due. Consistent partnerships with countries of destinations are ideal and should be maintained to protect victims, no matter their status or nationality.

Date submitted:

13 May 2022

Disclaimer: The content of this practice reflects the views of the implementers and does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations, the United Nations Network on Migration, and its members.



*References to Kosovo shall be understood to be in the context of United Nations Security Council resolution 1244 (1999).