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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

DOJ’s IACAT to implement stricter departure formalities to check human trafficking

The Department of Justice and Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking on Tuesday said it would be implementing stricter departure formalities starting next month in order to address the increasing number of human trafficking victims.

The Department of Justice assured that the 2023 Revised IACAT Guidelines on Departure Formalities for International-Bound Filipino Passengers would not curtail the constitutionally guaranteed right of the people to travel “but to serve as a protective bulwark shielding our fellow citizens from the dire perils of human trafficking.”

The revised guidelines will take effect on September 3.

DOJ spokesman Jose Dominic Clavano said the revision aims to encompass existing policies upheld by member agencies while conscientiously addressing emergent trends in human trafficking.

“The problem has become severe because we have seen a lot of cases wherein Filipinos who are being employed to a regular job abroad are being conned into human trafficking schemes and we’ve seen it too many times that we need to rescue them from abroad,” the DOJ official stressed.

“So, these new guidelines seek to screen them thoroughly before they leave so we don’t have any reasons to initiate rescues,” he said.

Under the revised guidelines, the IACAT said aside from the inspection of basic travel documents, immigration officers may propound relevant clarificatory questions and require outbound passengers to show additional supporting documents.

The IACAT also said secondary inspection should not exceed 15 minutes unless extraordinary circumstances require a longer period of inspections.

The 15-minute period will commence at the start of the interview by the secondary inspection officer.

BI spokesperson Dana Sandoval said immigration officers would be looking for documents to prove the relations of a Filipino going overseas with a foreign partner, including photos and other relative documents.

Immigration personnel would also scrutinize the financial capacity of the foreigner to fund the travel and whether the foreigner has already sponsored a trip before.

“Maybe we need to clarify that this is not a means to be strict on our citizens because in fact, based on our data, only 0.6 percent of departing passengers have not been allowed to travel vis a vis their actual purpose of travel,” she pointed out.

The IACAT also prescribed new requirements for parents traveling with their children.

Starting next month, passengers traveling with a minor are required to present a certificate of exemption from the Department of Social Welfare and Development if the parents are not married, the traveling companions is a legal guardian, biological father who has sole parental authority or legal custody over the minor orphans traveling with substitute parents.

The guidelines also listed the grounds for immigration officers to defer the departure of a passenger which include: refusal to undergo secondary inspection; doubtful purpose of travel; inconsistent or insufficient travel or supporting documents; misrepresentation or withholding of material information about the travel; presentation of fraudulent, falsified, or tampered travel or supporting documents; non-compliance with previous deferred-departure requirements; or the passenger is a potentially trafficked or illegally recruited person, or a suspected trafficker/ illegal recruiter.

IACAT pointed out that the new guidelines are not stricter compared to before and that they only laid out all of the requirements and documents Filipinos need to secure before traveling.

“IACAT ardently anticipates that the enforcement of these meticulously-refined guidelines, complemented by an enhanced regime of information dissemination, will effectuate a palpable reduction, if not outright elimination, of human trafficking incidents,” it said.

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