Number of intercepted illegal recruits curve during pandemic

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DAVAO CITY — The Bureau of Immigration (BI) said it barred close to 12,000 Filipinos from leaving the country last year as a result of the agency’s continued drive against illegal recruitment and human trafficking.

BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said immigration officers at the different ports of exit deferred the departure of 11,706 passengers, of which 9,411 were stopped at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

The number of passengers whose travel was deferred, however, is 70% lower than the 38,522 travelers who were stopped from leaving in 2019.

“Travel restrictions and international flight suspensions imposed due to the COVID-19 pandemic naturally caused a tremendous drop in the number of Filipinos who traveled abroad in 2020,” Morente said.

He noted that it was only during October that the government started the gradual lifting of travel restrictions, including the ban on non-essential travel by Filipinos.

Nonetheless, Morente stressed it was evident that the pandemic did not stop human traffickers and illegal recruiters from continuing with their nefarious activities and recruiting victims.

“Thanks to our vigilant immigration officers at the ports, many of these suspected human trafficking victims were intercepted and rescued before they could leave,” the BI chief said.

BI intelligence chief Fortunato Manahan Jr., who supervises the BI’s travel control and enforcement unit (TCEU), also reported that 295 passengers were turned over to the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) as possible trafficking victims.

Manahan said the most common reasons for preventing a passenger from leaving are failure to present required documents, carrying fraudulent documents, and misrepresentation.

Meanwhile, Morente reminded aspiring overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) not to fall prey to illegal recruiters and human traffickers.  “We are worried that once international travel returns to normal, there will be again a rise in the number of victims,” said Morente.  “These illegal recruiters will sweet talk their victims and take advantage of the hardships that some of our kababayan faces make them agree to below-standard arrangements,” he added.

Morente said that those who wish to work abroad should coordinate with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration to ensure their work is registered and legal. Newsline.ph

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