Help is just a text away (OFW SMS SOS Helpline)

Short title

Help is just a text away (OFW SMS SOS Helpline)

Start date - End date

Tue, 01/31/2006

Results and lessons learned

Significant increase in the number of cases of distress migrants being reported out promptly and consequently, being able to deliver concrete service to individual migrants through effective referral system of CMA; Possibility of replication of the system for migrant workers of other nationalities: CMA partner migrant NGOs in Indonesia, Nepal and Mexico have taken an interest in the SOS SMS System for their own migrant workers; The project enables migrant workers themselves to be direct stakeholders since the success of the project rests also on the network of committed migrants onsite who volunteered to be mobilised to respond to the SOS SMS cases; In general, CMA's assistance to distressed migrants serves as the barometer to gauge the effectiveness and responsiveness of policies being crafted and implemented. It provides more opportunities and spaces for CMA interaction with government agencies creating an atmosphere of trust and goodwil along the way.



Key success or innovative factors

The Philippines is known as the texting capital of the world because of the masintreamed use of SMS technology. The development of SOS SMS system for distressed migrants combined with other online technology and resources enable migrants to expand their spaces to promote, protect and fulfill their human rights.Current efforts are underway to make the system more efficient, cost efficient and systems efficient, tapping on email and website facilities as well.


P2,000,000 in monetary equivalent – the project though has been mostly through CMA's pool of volunteers – to attend to the cases and the software development

JMDI Focus area

Migrant Rights


Help is just a text away (OFW SMS SOS Helpline)

Other partners

Pusong Mamon Task Force (PMTF) (Saudi Arabia), Kav La Oved (Israel), Migrant Forum in Asia and other CMA partners abroad depending on where SOS SMS originates, CMA taps and mobilizes its global partners and networks in more than 50 countries and destinations. Department of Foreign Affairs, Labor Department's International Labor Affairs Services, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, Commission on Filipinos Overseas, Philippine Embassies, Consulates and Overseas Labor Offices.

Main objectives




Main activities

Intake of Cases of Migrants in Distress; Data and complaints verification; Documentation of the cases; Case analysis and possible interventions; Referral of cases to concerned government agencies in Manila and overseas; case monitoring; Periodic Case conferences (internal -CMA only and with Government agencies) to review and evaluate cases and status; Analysis of Cases to identify trends, gaps/ deficits between policies and actual situation of migrants on the ground; and ultimately identify issues for further policy advocacy; Periodic report of cases. On the technical side of it – continuous programme development of mobile and online technology to expand spaces of migrants for redress and access to justice. Conscious effort to broaden global networks which is imperative to the success of the SOS SMS System

Main beneficiaries

Case intake on the first year increased by 500% with SOS cases totaling 1,000 – target population are OFWs in West Asia including Israel, south east and east Asia, where many OFWs are women, particularly domestic workersInitially intended to be a temporary solution to the country's unemployment problems and shortage of dollar reserves during the 1970s, labor migration has now become a permanent solution to the country's unemployment and underdevelopment problems. POEA's thrusts for 2006 onwards is the continued deployment of 1 million OFWs, with emphasis on deployment of skilled and professional OFWs. The Philippine government now aggressively promotes labor migration.Currently, Philippine labor migration has a woman's face with more than 70% of annual deployment comprising women migrants. They are concentrated in stereotypical women's jobs abroad that are often classified as dirty, dangerous, demeaning and unregulated even as they are also increasingly in demand as services workers and nurses in a service-dominated global economy. Undocumented Filipinos overseas, estimated at more than 1.3M are people at risk. They are vulnerable to abuses and various forms of discrimination in many host countries especially in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US and the subsequent actions led by the US, purportedly to combat world terrorism.

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