Immigration officers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) recently stopped 30 Filipinos from traveling to the UAE. The reason? They were undocumented overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) disguised as tourists, planning to work in the Middle East.
According to Bureau of Immigration (BI) Port Operations Division Chief Grifton Medina, personnel from the Travel Control and Enforcement Unit (TCEU) intercepted 18 women and 12 men who were about to board an Emirates Airlines flight to Dubai on Friday, March 29.
Immigration Stops Filipino Workers Disguised as Tourists
“All of them initially claimed they were going to visit a friend or relative in Dubai for a vacation and presented as proof their tourist visas and return tickets,” Medina said through a BI press release. “But inconsistencies in their statements prompted the immigration officers to doubt their purpose, so they were referred to the TCEU for secondary inspection.”
Eventually, the passengers admitted that they were planning to work abroad. They also said that their travel documents were only given to them on that day by a “handler” who met them just outside NAIA.
BI-TCEU Chief Erwin Ortañez stated that 29 passengers had valid tourist visas issued by the UAE’s Ministry of Interior. All of them confessed that they were hired to work as waiters and waitresses in hotels across Dubai.
On the other hand, one of the passengers had a fake visa, and said that he was planning to go to Baghdad, Iraq — where he had been hired as a kitchen supervisor.
All 30 passengers have been turned over to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), who will facilitate the filing of charges against their recruiters. The charge? Human trafficking.
“As a result of this incident, we were able to rescue our kababayans from the risk of being abused and exploited abroad, which they are prone to suffer due to their status as undocumented workers,” BI Commissioner Jaime Morente stated.
Morented described the incident as “a big leap” in the fight against human trafficking, and reminded frontline immigration officers to remain vigilant against trafficking syndicates.
Kudos to the Philippine Bureau of Immigration for a job well done! If not for you, our kababayans may have become victims of human trafficking. As for other job seekers, please beware of such practices, and check out these tips in finding a good recruitment agency to work overseas.