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BI warns human traffickers amid eased travel restrictions

THE Bureau of Immigration (BI) warned human traffickers not to take advantage of the easing of travel restrictions and spirit their victims out of the country.

Atty. Candy Tan, BI port operations division chief, disclosed that even before restrictions on outbound non-essential travel by Filipinos were lifted, BI officers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) already intercepted scores of passengers who claimed to be OFWs but were caught with bogus travel papers, including fake visas and OECs and tampered passports.

Tan said illegal recruiters would often provide their victims with tourist visas on on the promise that they will be given their work visas upon arriving in their foreign destinations.

“Some of them even pretended to be seafarers who attempted to leave with fake seaman’s books and letters of guarantee from their alleged employers,” she added.

In 2020 alone, more than 300 Filipinos have been referred by the BI to the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking and the POEA for being possible victims of human trafficking or illegal recruitment.

Makati City Pabakuna

The POEA earlier issued a similar warning to aspiring OFWs. In an advisory, the POEA reminded those who are looking to work overseas that they must possess legitimate travel documents such as passports, work visas among others.

The BI said its officers at the airports have been ordered to thwart any attempts by these trafficking syndicates to send their victims abroad in the guise of being tourists, adding that with the lifting of restrictions on non-essential overseas travel by Filipinos, immigration officers were instructed to be extra vigilant in screening departing passengers and refer for secondary inspection those with doubtful purpose in going abroad.

Filipinos intending to work abroad were also warned against using fake travel documents and misdeclaring the purpose of their travel.

Aside from passports and work visas, departing overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) must have an overseas employment certificate (OEC) from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) which they have to present to our officers at the airport.