The Bureau of Immigration intercepted 20 suspected victims of human trafficking syndicate at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport for attempting to leave for Africa with spurious travel documents.
Immigration Associate Commissioner and Port Operations Division Chief Marc Red Mariñas said the victims who were stopped from leaving via Naia Terminal were about to board an Emirates Airways flight to Dubai.
Mariñas said the victims initially claimed to be sent by a Malaysia-based company to Sao Tome and Principe, a small island nation off the western coast of Central Africa.
Immigration officers doubted their purpose of travel when they noticed that the invitation presented was dubious, and the victims could not provide details about their purpose of travel.
It was later discovered that they were traveling to Sao Tome to work without proper documentation.
“We were asked if we wanted to work at their project in Sao Tome. We agreed because we were offered good pay,” one of the unidentified victims said.
The incident prompted Morente to reiterate previous warnings to aspiring OFWs against leaving the country without the necessary work permits from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.
“As undocumented workers, you risk being exposed to possible abuse and exploitation in foreign lands, access to assistance and protection extended by the government,” BI chief Jaime Morente said.
“We will not allow this to happen to our kababayan, as it is the duty of the Bureau as part of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking to protect our OFWs from exploitation,” he added.
All the victims were male and were offered construction jobs in Sao Tome.
The BI declined to reveal the names of the victims, saying that disclosure was prohibited by current anti-trafficking laws.
BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval said the passengers were immediately referred to the IACAT for investigation.