More than 7,000 Filipino travelers, most of them believed to be victims of human trafficking syndicates, were stopped from leaving the country during the first quarter of the year due to the Bureau of Immigration’s intensified campaign against human trafficking.
BI Port Operations Division Chief Grifton Medina said 7,311 passengers’ departures were deferred from January to March for failure to comply with requirements for overseas-bound travelers.
“We have been very careful in assessing these travelers as we wanted to ensure that they will not be victimized by human traffickers and illegal recruiters,” Medina said.
He stressed that the BI officers were duty-bound to strictly screen departing passengers because they “constitute the last line of defense in the government’s drive to combat trafficking in our ports.”
Medina explained that in screening departing passengers the BI was observing and implementing the Department of Justice guidelines on departure formalities for international-bound passengers.
Medina clarified that being disallowed did not mean perpetual denial to depart the country. “Passengers whose departures were previously deferred will be allowed after complying with requirements based on the DOJ guidelines,” he stated. “These requirements were set by the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) to ensure that our kababayan are protected from being victimized abroad,” he added.
Erwin Ortañez, who heads the bureau’s travel control and enforcement unit (TCEU), said more than 6,000 or about 84 percent of the passengers came from NAIA while the rest were stopped in the airports of Mactan, Clark, Iloilo, Kalibo, and Davao.
Ortañez also disclosed that most of the passengers stopped had doubtful purpose of travel while some committed fraudulent acts such as misrepresentation and submitting spurious supporting documents.
Among them were 13 underage overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were caught falsifying their birth dates in their passports.
Also stopped from leaving in the same period were scores of Pinoy workers who presented fake overseas employment certificates (OECs).
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.
“We will continue our drive to protect our countrymen from these syndicates who keep on sending workers abroad illegally, making them prone to abuse and exploitation in foreign lands,” the BI chief added.
“The fight against human trafficking and illegal recruitment is a priority for this administration. Modern-day slavery has no place in this world, and we will make sure that Filipinos are protected from this threat,” he said.
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