Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente ordered immigration officers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport to screen departing overseas Filipino workers following reports that trafficking syndicates were recruiting under-aged Filipinas to work abroad.
Morente has instructed BI Port Operations Division Chief Grifton Medina to alert BI personnel manning immigration booths at the airport to strictly screen departing OFWs to make sure they were of legal age and eligible for overseas deployment.
“BI officers are instructed to refer these passengers to our Travel Control and Enforcement Unit for secondary inspection,” Morente said.
He said BI personnel would conduct pre-screening of departing OFWs to watch out for passengers who appear to be minors or below 23 years old, the age requirement for overseas household service workers.
The strict screening was ordered after a 21-year-old Filipina household worker bound for Saudi Arabia was intercepted last Wednesday by BI officers at the NAIA terminal 1 before she could board a Philippine Airlines flight to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
According to Glenn Ford Comia, BI TCEU NAIA 1 head supervisor, the passenger admitted during questioning that she was not aged 25 as indicated in her passport, as she was actually born in 1995, making her only 21 years old.
“She said that she only learned that her date of birth was changed when she received her travel documents from her recruiter on the day of her flight,” Comia said.
He added that the woman was subsequently turned over to the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking for further investigation and assistance.
Last year, the BI said more than 100 underaged Filipina OFWs, many of them minors, were intercepted at NAIA.
All of them had passports with falsified birthdates, although they had valid overseas employment permits, working visas and job contracts.