by Robie de Guzman, untvweb, 18 Jan 2021
MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Monday reported that close to 12,000 Filipino travelers were barred from leaving the country last year amid the bureau’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 agency said that the number of passengers whose departure was deferred last year was 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 in a statement.
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 their nefarious activities.
“Thanks to our vigilant immigration officers at the ports, many of these suspected human trafficking victims were intercepted and rescued before they could leave,” he said.
BI intelligence chief Fortunato Manahan Jr., who supervises the BI’s travel control and enforcement unit, also reported that 295 passengers were turned over to the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking 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 those who wish to work abroad not to fall prey to illegal recruiters and human traffickers and to coordinate with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration to ensure that their work is registered.
“We are worried that once international travel returns to normal, there will be again a rise the number of victims,” he said.
“These illegal recruiters will sweet talk their victims and take advantage of the hardships that some of our kababayan face to make them agree to below-standard arrangements,” he added.