BI intercepts 17 trafficking victims at Mactan airport

MANILA — Bureau of Immigration (BI) Commissioner Jaime Morente has alerted personnel manning the different airports to be extra vigilant against passengers disguised as tourists who were illegally recruited to work overseas.

This, following the rescue of 17 females suspected to be human trafficking victims, who were illegally hired to work as household service workers in the Middle East, at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) last week.

According to BI Port Operations Division Chief Grifton Medina, the passengers were intercepted on October 16 and 17 before they could board their flights to Hong Kong and Macau en route to their final destinations in 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,” he said in a statement.

Ma. Asuncion Palma-Gil, BI-MCIA’s travel control, and enforcement unit head said the passengers were offloaded from five different flights and that 13 of them were hired to work in Dubai while the other four 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 people they know currently working in Dubai and Doha,” she added.

She said the passengers were not familiar with their travel itinerary and would only rely on instructions from their handlers upon arriving in Hong Kong and Macau.

“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,” she added.

Medina said due to their intensified campaign against trafficking, syndicates are attempting to shift their operations to other exit ports.

The women were turned over to the MCIA Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking for assistance and further investigation. Ferdinand Patinio /PNA-