Immigration officers at the international seaport in Zamboanga City barred from leaving the country 12 suspected human trafficking victims who attempted to leave the county via the southern backdoor.
BI Port Operations Division Chief Grifton Medina said the passengers were intercepted as they were about to board the passenger ship M/V Antonia bound for Sandakan, Malaysia.
Medina said BI inspectors stationed at the southern port decided to defer the departure of the passengers after glaring inconsistencies were noticed in their answers to questions when interviewed.
“Because of this incident we were able to thwart an attempt by these trafficking syndicates to spirit their victims out of the country. They mistakenly thought that we are less strict in screening passengers departing in our ports outside of Manila,” Medina added.
Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente commended BI personnel assigned at the Zamboanga International Seaport for the accomplishment as he exhorted them to remain vigilant at all times.
“We should not relax our guard amid repeated attempts by these syndicates to undermine our campaign against human trafficking that prey on our poor countrymen,” Morente said. “They are relentless in their schemes despite the holiday season,” he added.
Ibrahim Lim, BI-ZIS head supervisor, in his report ,said the departing passengers were turned by By Vito Barcelo members of the Zamboanga Sea-Based Anti-Trafficking Task Force, an inter-agency body that includes the BI.
Reports show that the victims, who are all women, hailed from different parts of the country and were unable to explain why they are departing from their Zamboanga. They could not likewise detail their itinerary and their purpose in going to Malaysia.
Morente said BI officers at the Zamboanga port had been on alert to ensure that the Southern borders will not be abused by traffickers and illegal recruiters who transport victims to Malaysia without proper documents.