Kuala Lumpur/Geneva, 18 December 2017 – The launch of a new digital information platform in the Philippines will put critical and relevant information in the hands of overseas Filipino workers and their families.

Virtualvolunteer.org – a mobile friendly web platform developed by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and International Business Machines (IBM) – helps people migrating access reliable and practical information and support wherever they are. Virtualvolunteer.org has already been rolled out in Greece, Italy and Sweden with over 34,000 people using the platform.

However, it’s the first time for the Philippines to roll out this online platform, which responds to the specific needs of overseas workers and their families.

Overseas workers are often exposed to unacceptable living conditions, or to violence and other deprivations,” said Elhadj As Sy, the Secretary General of the IFRC. “We believe this platform will bridge a critical gap in terms of accessing information and support. One of its core tasks is to ensure that people know their rights, and where to get help if needed.”

At any given time, there are an estimated 12 million overseas Filipino workers, with the majority working in Gulf states. Migration remains a powerful motivator, and a positive force in bringing access to jobs and income. Yet many migrants experience poor living and working conditions. They may also be excluded from legal protection, and have limited access to social services and health care. In extreme cases, their basic human rights can be denied, with regular reports of abuse.

“With record numbers of people on the move – of their own volition, or not – the task of ensuring the dignity and protection of migrants worldwide remains a high priority for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. We continue to give practical support for migrants at their points of departure, transit and destination, and to advocate on the global stage for their rights, including through the UN’s global compact,” Mr Sy said.

Virtualvolunteer.org provides Filipino workers with an explanation of their rights when abroad; it gives practical advice on how to avoid falling prey to traffickers and illegal recruiters; and it helps users find support in their countries of destination. The platform also aims at providing information on the services which have been put in place by the Philippine Red Cross to provide assistance not only to those abroad, but also to family members at home who need support to adjust when a relative migrates.

The Virtual Volunteer will complement the work that is already being done by Philippine Red Cross volunteers to support people considering overseas work and their families.

Right now, we have an estimated two million volunteers and 400,000 active Red Cross volunteers ready to be mobilized and to give support to communities across this country. This information resource will help them become ambassadors for safe migration in their communities,” Philippine Red Cross Chairman Richard Gordon said.

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