The Bureau of Immigration (BI) has “intensified” its anti-human trafficking campaign this year. As a result, the first 10 months of 2018 saw more than 28,000 Filipinos stopped from leaving the country.
The passengers, totaling 28,467, were stopped from boarding their flights abroad after being found non-compliant with overseas travel requirements.
“What we are trying to prevent here is allowing the departure of victims of human trafficking and illegal recruitment,” said port operations chief Grifton Medina. Medina refered to the requirements provided by the Department of Justice for departure formalities for international-bound passengers. These guidelines help the BI flag possible trafficking operations.
Overseas Filipino workers are required to secure an overseas employment certificate from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, which ensures their protection while working abroad.
Filipinos often fall victim to illegal recruitment operations, which “sweet-talk” them with promises of better pay or lucrative work, at the trade of them posing as tourists when leaving the country. This strips the hopeful workers of their protection as OFWs and places them under the radar of the government. Hence, airport operations stopping suspicious travelers is considered a vital part of the fight against human trafficking.
“We are considered the last line of defense inside our country to protect our people,” said Medina.
Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said that a “let-up” of the bureau’s intensified campaign should not be expected anytime soon, even with the coming holiday season.
“Sasabihin nila, it’s a risk, lakasan lang ng loob. I appeal to our kababayans not to be fooled by these unscrupulous individuals,” warned Morente, reffering to illegal recruiters who shortcut procedures.
23, 239 of the blocked passengers were stopped at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. The rest of the 28,000 figure were stopped at airports in Mactan, Clark, Iloilo, Kalibo, and Davao.