Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime
Technical Experts Group on Returns and Reintegration
Manila, 23-24 April 2018
Under the auspices of the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime (the Bali Process), Australia and the Philippines co-chaired the inaugural Technical Experts Group on Returns and Reintegration (RRG) in Manila on 23-24 April 2018. The RRG built upon outcomes from the December 2015 Roundtable on Returns and Reintegration, and a directive from the Sixth Bali Process Ministerial Conference in March 2016.
The RRG was attended by delegates from Australia, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Canada, Indonesia, Myanmar, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Viet Nam, IOM (Brussels and Jakarta offices), UNHCR, UNDP-UNACT, and the Bali Process Regional Support Office. The inaugural meeting of the RRG promoted greater understanding among participants of the challenges and shared interests in managing the return and reintegration of people who do not have a lawful basis to remain in another country.
Opening the meeting, Undersecretary Claro A. Arellano of the Philippine Department of Labor and Employment, said “members’ attendance demonstrates the growing level of commitment to practical measures we can all take to address the issues of regional returns and reintegration”. Undersecretary Arellano also highlighted the challenges faced by states, and briefed the group on the Philippine Government’s management of the protection of the rights and promotion of the welfare of over 10 million overseas Filipino workers.
Participants expressed a preference for the voluntary return of migrants where possible, but acknowledged the need for forced returns as part of a comprehensive and balanced approach to migration management. Delegates shared lessons learned through the implementation of return and reintegration programs, and provided constructive feedback on the draft Bali Process Policy Guide on Returns and Reintegration—which members agreed to take forward through future meetings of the RRG.
Cooperation on sustainable returns is a priority under the Bali Process Regional Cooperation Framework and the 2013 Jakarta Declaration. Throughout discussions, participants highlighted the importance of a whole-of-society approach toward ensuring dignified, safe and humane returns of all migrants, regardless of their status.
Delegates recommended that Australia and the Philippines remain as co-chairs for the initial phase, and that the RRG meet at least once annually.
“I would like to congratulate the Bali Process Member Countries, the IOM, and the co-chairs: Australia and the Philippines for the successful conduct of the Technical Experts Group Meeting. The Philippines accepts to continue the RRG co-chairmanship with Australia. We are always ready to share our expertise to the Bali Process member countries to achieve its objectives for a safe and dignified return and reintegration of migrants.” Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III of the Philippine Department of Labor and Employment said after the RRG meeting.