by Robie de Guzman, UNTV News, 21 Oct 2019
MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Monday reported it rescued 17 individuals who were allegedly recruited illegally as household service workers in the Middle East.
The BI said the suspected human trafficking victims, who are females disguised as tourists, were intercepted at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) on October 16 and 17 before they could board their flights to Hong Kong and Macau en route to their destinations to the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
“It appears that these victims were recruited by a syndicate which separately booked them on several flights in order to mislead our immigration officers on the purpose of their trip. And that is to work abroad without documentation,” the bureau said in a statement.
The BI said the 17 individuals were offloaded from different flights, and that 13 of them were hired to work in Dubai while the rest were bound for Qatar.
“They all admitted having UAE and Qatari visas in their possession and that they were recruited by individuals they only met via Facebook or through the people they know currently working in Dubai and Doha,” said Ma. Asuncion Palma-Gil, head of BI-MCIA’s travel control and enforcement unit (TCEU).
The immigration official added that the passengers were not familiar with their travel itinerary and only relied on instructions given by their handlers.
“This is a clear case of human trafficking wherein victims who are jobless and have no visible means of support are sent abroad and put in harm’s way to satisfy the cravings for the profit of unscrupulous recruiters,” Palma-Gil said.
The women have been turned over to the MCIA Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) for assistance and further investigation, the BI said.
The bureau added that following the incident, it has further intensified its efforts in guarding the ports as syndicates are attempting to shift their operation to other exit ports.
“They are, however, wrong in assuming that we are less vigilant in guarding our ports outside Manila,” it said, adding that BI personnel manning the different reports have been ordered to be extra vigilant to prevent similar incidents.