Anti-human trafficking drive continues without letup – BI

MANILA-- The Bureau of Immigration (BI) has vowed to intensify its campaign against human trafficking as it reported that more than 43,000 people were barred from leaving the country during the past year for failure to comply with existing requirements for departing tourists.

BI chief Commissioner Jaime Morente issued a statement following the recent release by the US State Department of its 2017 human trafficking report which retained the Philippines under Tier 1 in its ranking of various countries' efforts to combat the said global menace.

The Philippines remained in Tier 1 ranking in a new US report on trafficking in persons (TIP) for two consecutive years.

The report on human trafficking released last week cited the Philippines for demonstrating, among others, serious and sustained efforts in identifying more victims through proactive screening procedures which is the main responsibility of immigration officers stationed in the different international airports and seaports.

The Philippines was the first and the only Southeast Asian nation to have achieved the status, sealing a regional leadership position in combating trafficking in persons.

The TIP Report is a diplomatic tool of the US government to engage foreign governments on human trafficking.

The report is also the world's most comprehensive resource of governmental anti-human trafficking efforts and reflects the US government's commitment to global leadership on this key human rights and law enforcement issue.

Our immigration officers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and other ports will remain vigilant in screening outbound Filipino travelers to make sure that they do not fall prey to human traffickers and illegal recruiters, Morente said.

We will not relax our guard so long as many of our countrymen are being lured by these syndicates to illegally travel abroad by taking advantage of their poverty, Morente stressed.

According to BI port operations division chief Marc Red MariAas, immigration officers in the different ports offloaded from July 2016 up to June this year a total of 43,233 Filipino travelers.

MariAas stressed the passengers' departure were deferred pending compliance with certain requirements which will prove that they are legitimate tourists and not tourist workers, a term used for undocumented overseas workers disguised as tourists.

MariAas also disclosed that 502 of the passengers, suspected of being trafficking victims, were turned over to the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) for investigation while the cases of 433 others were referred to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) for appropriate action.

He added that 90 percent of the offloaded passengers were screened at NAIA while the rest were processed in other ports such as Mactan, Clark, Kalibo, Zamboanga, Davao, and Iloilo.

Last year, the BI stopped 118 foreign registered sex offenders from entering the country.

The BI is attached agency of Department of Justice.

Earlier, Justice Secretary Vitalinao Aguirre II, who chairs the Inter Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), ordered a beefed-up campaign against human trafficking.

As of July 1, 2017, 231 trafficking victims have been rescued and 40 suspected traffickers were arrested in 43 operations of IACAT where all victims have been provided with legal and other support services.

It added that 44 convictions were secured out of the 53 perpetrators while 2,052 law enforcement and implementers are to undergo trainings.

"This achievement is a proud moment for us because we are cognizant of how challenging it is to maintain such a ranking. However, amidst the challenges, our Inter Agency Council Against Trafficking or IACAT which I chair has persevered and its perseverance has been rewarded, Aguirre said.

Source: Philippines News Agency