Workshop with Philippines Community Focuses on Solutions to Labour Exploitation and Gender-Based Violence

The Embassy of the Philippines to Hungary concerned about gender-based violence (GBV) issues, especially with regards to female migrant workers in Hungary, contacted IOM Hungary for their expertise and insight. Under the umbrella of the annual 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence Campaign, IOM Hungary convened a joint workshop on GBV on 30 November 2023 together with the Embassy; and Filipino community leaders, researchers and community members.

One in three women aged 15+ worldwide has faced gender-based violence. Gender-based violence can be manifested by way of, or as physical, psychological and economic abuse, online harassment and reproductive coercion and take the form of domestic violence, sexual and verbal abuse in the immediate environment, people being targeted and attacked for gender reasons, and unequal power dynamics.

The Filipino community in Hungary
Although lesser-visible than the larger Chinese and Japanese populations in Hungary, there are now 13000-14000 Filipinos living here. Meanwhile, as the Hungarian Government plans new investments employing thousands of additional Filipino migrant or guest workers, there is no entity accountable for preparing local communities; and this can result in an anti-migrant rhetoric. The Hungarian countryside in particular holds the biggest challenges in terms of the local population being less open and diverse, language barriers, healthcare access and lack of grievance reporting.

The Filipino community, like many other migrant communities in Hungary, faces a number of challenges that can affect their physical and psychosocial well-being. The Hungarian fear of the unknown is very wide-spread, and not knowing the ‘other’ can contribute to suspicion and abstraction. Newcomer workers live in uncertainty until they can participate in community life and events. The resulting isolation strengthens vulnerabilities. Hungarian procedures are difficult to understand, so workers must be prepared before coming so that they can identify and avoid any type of labour exploitation. But even if they were better prepared, there is currently no complaint mechanism for violations, and no help to understand procedures (for example decoding payslips is a major issue). Labour exploitation may take many physical and/or psychological forms, for example: deception, restriction of movement, isolation, physical and sexual violence, intimidation and threats, retention of identity documents, ungrounded deductions from salaries, withholding of wages, debt bondage, abusive working conditions or excessive working hours.16 days

The migrants’ situation is precarious as they are reliant on the company that organized their work in Hungary and can be left alone and in a vulnerable position. Workers sometimes run away from Hungary to try working in another Schengen country because there is no opportunity for extending their work permits, but as a consequence they might become irregular and exist in poor conditions. Schengen rules are not clear for workers. They might experience confusion, mistakenly assuming that the visa they have is a standard Schengen visa, when in fact, it is specifically designated for residence related to employment purposes exclusively within Hungary. Since these migrants do not have the necessary permits to work in other EU countries, if they leave Hungary, they risk visa problems abroad. 

The case of reproductive violence
GBV is one of the most widespread violations of human rights, and power imbalance is a key component. Migrant women, not just Filipino workers, are vulnerable from all sides: the intersectionality of being female (social dynamics), a foreigner from a third-country (access to local services and language barriers), and a migrant worker (economic dependence) at the same time exacerbates vulnerabilities.

A common example of reproductive violence is when someone becomes pregnant and is then coerced into abortion. Agencies can and often do send pregnant women home if they find out a migrant worker is pregnant because they judge that it is not worth to keep them in Hungary if they cannot work. Abortion is taboo (for religious reasons also) for Filipinos, and very complicated in Hungary even if one understands the language. The timeline for procedures leading to an abortion and are not well-known. An abortion in Hungary takes several weeks and requires referrals from doctors. Therefore, women often end up going to countries like Austria where they can pay for the procedure without questions like in Hungary. 

Next Steps: Empowerment and awareness raising are key in combating GBV
Since many of these people are vulnerable and at risk to labour exploitation in all its forms, IOM case workers are building capacities in the system by establishing rapport with schools, doctors, service providers and employers to ease social inclusion, better guarantee the rights of migrant workers. Labour exploitation may take many physical and/or psychological forms, for example: deception, restriction of movement, isolation, physical and sexual violence, intimidation and threats, retention of identity documents, ungrounded deductions from salaries, withholding of wages, debt bondage, abusive working conditions or excessive working hours.

At the policy level, IOM is working with accredited recruiters supporting social integration and social dialogue to ensure effective labour migration management; offering policy and technical advice to decision-makers; encouraging the development of policies, legislation and administrative structures that promote efficient, effective and transparent labour migration flows; assisting governments to promote safe labour migration practices for their nationals; and promoting the integration of labour migrants in their new workplace and society.

Globally, in coordination with national authorities, first responders and service providers, IOM and its partners work together to tailor activities in the national contexts and implement them:

  1. Strengthen and adapt existing national support services for victims of sexual and gender-based violence to coordinate better and include refugees, asylum seekers and migrants;
  2. Build capacity for professionals who work with and for refugees, asylum seekers and migrants to identify and address the needs of victims and potential victims of GBV more effectively;
  3. Empower and inform labour migrants, refugees, asylum seekers and migrant communities about GBV and how to protect themselves from the risk of becoming a victim of sexual and gender-based violence.


  • Empowering displaced women with skills and opportunities can contribute to prevent gender-based violence, as it provides them with tools to become economically self-sufficient and to become active participants and leaders in their communities.
  • Demystify foreigners for Hungarians through personal connections and ties to overcome the divide. When there is a bridge with the community, there is a way to overcome harmful separation and stereotypes. Host country and sending country communities should both be prepared for cultural exchange because neither Hungarian locals nor Filipino workers are prepared to engage with each other;
  • Prepare Filipino workers for the Hungarian socio-political scene and companies’ expectations;
  • An awareness-raising campaign is needed, preferably in their own language;
  • Mandate post-arrival orientation and aftercare since orientation in the Philippines is very general and Hungarian companies often choose Filipino coordinators from the new arrival batch who usually know nothing of the language and cultural context);
  • Implement post-departure orientation and medical service support specific to Hungary; 
  • Monitor complaints about employers discussed in Facebook groups or by bloggers and vloggers (social media information sharing is key for Filipino community);
  • Create accessible awareness-raising platforms for GBV victims or pregnant women; and
  • Philippines is a sex-negative country, and shyness and taboos prohibit women from purchasing contraceptives. Sex education should be introduced for migrants upon arrival, including an orientation about contraceptive methods.

IOM Hungary would like to thank the participation of Embassy of the Philippines to Hungary, Mabuhay Filipino Community in Hungary, Bayanihan Filipino Association in Hungary, MFM Consultancy Services and Enterprises, and the other researchers and scholars that participated.

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