By: Neil Arwin Mercado, INQINQUIRER.net, 5 Dec 2019
MANILA, Philippines — Thirty-four women suspected of being illegally recruited as household service workers in Saudi Arabia were rescued at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), the Bureau of Immigration (BI) reported Thursday.
BI port operations chief Grifton Medina said the “trafficking victims” were about to board their flight to Saudi Arabia when they were intercepted at NAIA Terminal 1 last November 30.
According to Medina, the women presented travel documents that have “glaring discrepancies and irregularities” prompting immigration agents to suspect.
“Our primary inspectors initially encountered two of their companions who happen to have been previously barred from leaving on suspicion of being trafficking victims,” Medina said in a statement.
“It was while they were undergoing secondary inspection that our men uncovered that they were traveling as a group with 32 other victims,” he added.
The names of the victims were not divulged due to a prohibition in the anti-trafficking law, BI said.
One of the biggest interceptions
BI’s travel control and enforcement unit (TCEU) chief Ma. Timotea Barizo said the November 30 rescue of the 34 women is considered as one of the biggest interceptions of suspected trafficking victims by BI-NAIA personnel in recent years.
According to Barizo, the job descriptions in the visa and overseas employment certificates (OEC) of the 34 women did not match.
Based on their visa, they were hired as household service workers but their OEC and job contracts state they were recruited as cleaners in companies.
Eventually, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) representatives at the airport confirmed that the OECs presented by the women were fake.
“Discrepancies like this are not allowed, especially when the actual work is in households rather than in companies, which puts our workers at greater risk,” said Barizo,” Barizo noted.
All 34 women were later turned over to the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) for assistance and further investigation.
BI Commissioner Jaime Morente reminded overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) not to fall prey to illegal recruiters and human traffickers.
“Our officers are working day and night to ensure that our kababayan will not be victimized by these human traffickers and illegal recruiters,” Morente said.
The bureau is currently on heightened alert amid the 30th Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) and the upcoming holiday season.