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This paper analyzes the experiences of returned Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and the program challenges faced by the government during the COVID-19 crisis. Using a mixed-methods approach, results were integrated from a rider survey with convenience sampling technique and from sets of interviews with OFWs, government officers, and other migration stakeholders. Desk review was also conducted to triangulate the findings. As to OFW return experiences, the main themes include: the massive pattern of returns and their ‘forced’ nature, the prevalence of stranded-ness in the process of return, the issue of wage theft against migrant workers, the varied forms of assistance received by returnees, and the individual coping strategies they explored as they tried to reintegrate locally.

Meanwhile, program issues mostly concern services gaps, information asymmetries, administrative constraints, and deeper structural challenges. Using these findings, the paper also introduces the framework tool, Crisis-Responsive Reintegration Approach Towards Empowerment of OFWs (CREATE) with five key elements: (1) comprehensive and multidimensional scope; (2) long term developmental perspective; (3) vertical and horizontal convergence; (4) orientation for personal preparedness; and (5) gender responsiveness and social equity. The paper advances the use of the tool as a reference for policy and program development processes, among other practical and strategic recommendations.

KEYWORDS: return migration, reintegration, governance framework, COVID-19, OFWs

RESEARCHERS: Ronell J. Delerio, Cesar A. Mansal, Frances Camille G. Dumalaog

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