MANILA -- Over 28,000 Filipino travelers have been barred by the Bureau of Immigration (BI) from leaving the country from January to October as part of the government’s intensified campaign against human trafficking.
According to BI Port Operations Division Chief Grifton Medina, a total of 28,467 passengers were not allowed to board their flights during the first 10 months of the year after they were found to be non-compliant with requirements for overseas-bound passengers.
“What we are trying to prevent here is allowing the departure of victims of human trafficking and illegal recruitment. We are considered the last line of defense inside our country to protect our people,” the BI official said in a statement Wednesday.
Medina noted that these requirements which have been implemented by the BI for the past few years as part of its efforts to curb human trafficking and illegal migration in the country’s ports of exit, are provided under the Guidelines on Departure Formalities for International-Bound Passengers set by the Department of Justice (DOJ).
BI records show that of the total number of persons deferred from January to October. 23,239 were stopped at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) while the rest were stopped in the airports of Mactan, Clark, Iloilo, Kalibo, and Davao.
Medina reported the notable interceptions for the year were the 151 minor and under-aged females bound for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) for misrepresenting their age from June to October.
In August, four Filipinos were rescued from an alleged illegal recruiter in Clark after a German national attempted to facilitate their travel by reportedly instructing them to present themselves as volunteers, when their true intent was to work as caregivers in Germany.
Some six female victims were prevented to leave last month after they were discovered to have presented fraudulently-acquired documents to immigration officers. They were reportedly recruited to work as nightclub entertainers in South Korea.
With this, Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente commended BI port personnel for their vigilance even as he exhorted them not to relent in their efforts to combat human trafficking.
“There will be no letup in our campaign so long as there are syndicates who continue to unlawfully send abroad our countrymen who are prone to abuse and exploitation in foreign lands,” the BI chief added.
Morente reiterated that they will not relax their guard this holiday season as “illegal recruiters and human traffickers might take advantage of the influx of people in our airports”.
“The fight against human trafficking and illegal recruitment is a continuous joint effort of immigration and other government agencies. Modern-day slavery has no place in this world, and we will make sure that our kababayans are protected from this threat,” he said.
Meanwhile, Morente said that the country retained its Tier 1 rating in the US State Department’s 2018 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, this was achieved through the efforts of BI and other partner agencies.
The premier TIP rating was retained by the Philippines for the third straight year and is one of 39 countries among 186 surveyed that continued to demonstrate serious and sustained efforts to fight trafficking.
A Tier 1 rating is given to those who fully comply with the minimum standards of the US Trafficking Victim Protection Act.
“You will be surprised at the stories we encounter at the airport. Many fall prey to illegal recruiters who sweet-talk their victims to pretending that they are tourists to circumvent the law. Sasabihin nila (They say), it’s a risk, lakasan lang ng loob (it's just a matter of fighting spirit). I appeal to our kababayans not to be fooled by these unscrupulous individuals,” he added.
Under the law, OFWs must secure an overseas employment certificate from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration before leaving the country.
Morente said that policy is in place “to ensure their protection abroad.” (PNA)