MANILA A total of 20 suspected trafficking victims were intercepted by Bureau of Immigration (BI) officers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) after attempting to leave for Africa with spurious travel documents.
In a report to BI Commissioner Jaime Morente, BI Officer-in-Charge Associate Commissioner and Port Operations Division Chief Marc Red MariAas said that the victims were stopped from leaving via NAIA Terminal 3 last June 8 as they were about to board an Emirates Airways flight to Dubai.
In a news release issued Wednesday, MariAas said the victims initially claimed to be sent by a Malaysia-based company to Sao Tome and Principe, a small island nation off the western coast of Central Africa.
Immigration officers doubted their purpose of travel when they noticed that the invitation presented was dubious, and the victims could not provide details about their purpose of travel.
It was later discovered that they were traveling to Sao Tome to work without proper documentation.
Tinanong kami if gusto naming magtrabaho sa project sa Sao Tome, pumayag kami kasi malaki ang sweldo (We were asked if we wanted to work at their project in Sao Tome. We agreed because we were offered good pay), one of the victims recounted.
The incident prompted Morente to reiterate previous warnings to aspiring overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) against leaving the country without the necessary work permits from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.
As undocumented workers, you risk being exposed to possible abuse and exploitation in foreign lands, access to assistance and protection extended by the government, Morente said.
We will not allow this to happen to our kababayan, as it is the duty of the Bureau as part of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) to protect our OFWs from exploitation, he added.
BI Spokesperson Dana Krizia Sandoval said all the victims were male, and were offered construction jobs in Sao Tome.
She, however, declined to reveal the names of the victims, saying that disclosure is prohibited by current anti-trafficking laws.
Sandoval said the passengers were immediately referred to the IACAT for investigation. (BI PR)
Source: Philippine News Agency