Imagine you are falling in line waiting for your turn at the immigration counter at Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
Even with passport, boarding pass and other documents on hand, you still tremble at the possibility that your answers might not impress the immigration officer. Worse, your fears become a reality. The immigration officer thinks you lack the necessary document or your response to his queries is inconsistent. You are denied entry beyond the immigration and disallowed for embarkation.
As Bureau of Immigration (BI) Commissioner Ricardo A. David Jr. urged immigration officers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) to step up their vigilance and intensify the agency’s campaign against human trafficking, we can expect more Filipinos bound overseas to be offloaded from their scheduled flights. The purpose of doing so varies, from preventing human smuggling activity or illegal recruitment. According to BI most of the offloaded passengers are bound for countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and those in the Middle East. Let’s find out the reasons behind such action:
You are unable to provide the necessary documents.
As a legitimate overseas Filipino worker, you are expected to bring with you important documents not only to prove to Immigration officers your travel is valid but also to ensure you are properly documented as OFW. This is especially helpful in times of emergency. Being a documented OFW — membership of government-sanctioned welfare agencies like Overseas Workers Welfare Administration — it is easier to track you and offer you assistance than those undocumented workers. Otherwise, if you’re in trouble and wish to be repatriated, you’ll get lower priority than documented workers — if ever you get tracked at all.
If you are an aspiring worker abroad but only armed with a passport with a tourist visa stamp, you could be in trouble too. One of the schemes illegal recruiters do is deploy workers under the tourist-worker scheme. In this approach, applicants will be asked to secure tourist visas and promised work visas will be issued only when they arrive at the desired destination. Such an approach is especially obvious if the country you’re about to ‘tour’ isn’t a popular tourist destination for Filipinos: the Middle East or African countries. And even if your purpose is different (visit friends, visit family members, etc), if your passport is stamped only with a tourist visa, it may be harder to get a nod from the immigration officer especially if you don’t have supporting documents.
You are unable to provide consistent statements.
When an officer starts asking about visas or your destination, you have to be certain that you know how to respond calmly and directly. If you tell them you’re going to a country to work but your passport only shows you can visit the country only as a tourist, that raises the red flag. If you’re trying to sneak into another country by making up stories, you’re bound to fail and will likely be prevented from boarding your flight. You can thank the officer for doing so as he could save you from further trouble; you may be barred — or banned — from entering your destination country with questionable statements.
You are bound to a country where OFW deployment is currently banned.
It is easy to understand that when your passport has explicit orders for you not to enter Iraq or issues a statement that prohibits travelers from places like Bahrain, Libya or Yemen, it’s close to impossible you will be able to fly to your intended destination. They just want you to be kept from harm’s way. But for certain reasons, many Filipinos are willing to cross the danger zone. Some would succeed in getting around the prying eyes of the Immigration but could end up as victims of international human smuggling or drug syndicates.
There may be other causes of why passengers get offloaded. Unfortunately, some of them are inconsistent, and puzzle passengers who present complete documents and claim to have answered queries satisfactorily.
The problem is that some officers raise arbitrary questions. For example, officers may require the passenger to produce a document stamped by the Philippine consulate of that destination country even if a visa is already issued. Or someone claimed to have paid thousands of pesos to an officer after failing to convince the latter of his religion by singing a Gospel song.
The objective is clear: allow Filipinos to travel abroad if they have proper documentation. But the problem is that such objective is open to different interpretation or that the BI’s process is part of the long bureaucratic red tape that Philippine government agencies are often accused of. People can only lament that even at the last moments of their stay in the country, fellow Filipinos continue to make things hard for them.
If you have comments, questions or complaints about the Immigration Bureau, you can find useful contact details here.