by Rudy Santos (The Philippine Star), 25 Mar 2021
MANILA, Philippines — The Bureau of Immigration (BI) said yesterday it has launched an investigation into allegations that some of its officers were involved in the trafficking of 44 women to work in Syria.
A Senate inquiry into the human trafficking scheme has been told that women using tourist visas traveled from the Philippines to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, where they had been promised work.
They were “locked up inside a dark and dirty dormitory and were made to sleep on the floor,” Sen. Risa Hontiveros, who is spearheading the inquiry, said previously.
After their 30-day visas expired, the women were forced to go to Damascus, where they were sold to employers for as much as $10,000.
“Our immigration officers seem to be sending our women into slavery,” Hontiveros said last week.
Dozens fled to the Philippine embassy in the Syrian capital “due to harsh working conditions,” the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said last month.
The DFA has repatriated at least six of the undocumented workers after securing exit visas for them.
“I am disappointed and frustrated about the alleged involvement of BI personnel in these nefarious activities,” BI chief Jaime Morente told the Senate inquiry, according to a statement released yesterday.
At least 28 immigration officers were under investigation over their alleged involvement in the scheme, he said.
“As already proven in the past, we will not hesitate to make them face the harshest penalties,” Morente said. – AFP