BI on alert vs. illegal Iraq-bound OFWs

MANILA -- The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Friday ordered its officers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila and other ports to thoroughly screen Filipinos traveling to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente issued the directive after receiving reports that human trafficking syndicates are using the Arab country as a transit point for illegally deploying overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to Iraq.

He added that they were recently alerted by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) regarding the alleged recruitment by syndicates through social media of Filipino workers to Iraq despite the ongoing ban on the deployment of OFWs there.

Immigration officers are directed to exercise extra vigilance in clearing the departure of Filipino travelers bound for Dubai, particularly those who are departing as tourists, and make sure that they are not going to other foreign destinations in order to work, the BI chief said in his directive to BI Port Operations Division (POD) chief Grifton Medina.

There are reports that online ads advertising newly-opened job vacancies in Iraq allegedly circulated online and falsely claimed that the deployment ban has been lifted.

Morente instructed airport officers to monitor the names of several OFWs allegedly illegally recruited to work as restaurant waiters in Baghdad, which the bureau obtained from the DFA.

Be sure that none of these illegal OFWs disguised as tourists are able to leave the country. They should be stopped and turned over to the IACAT (Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking) if encountered, for their protection, he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Medina added that according to the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad, the said recruits have been issued visas authorizing them to work in Iraq.

There are also reports that Iraq-bound OFWs are deployed there by first sending them off as tourists to Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur before they proceed to Baghdad, he said.

Our immigration officers were already properly alerted of this scheme so they better think twice, he added.

The victims have allegedly agreed to reimburse the deployment cost incurred by their recruiters through salary deduction.

This is a form of human trafficking through debt-bondage, Morente said.

These illegal recruiters will sweet-talk their victims, encouraging them to take the job offers while the costs will be deducted from their salaries. When they get to their worksites, many are enslaved, given meager salaries, and made to work more than they supposed to in order to pay off their alleged debt, he added.

Source: Philippines News Agency