43,000 ‘Tourist Workers’ Offloaded by Philippine Immigration Over Past 12 Months

Over 43,000 Filipinos classified as ‘tourist workers’ were barred from leaving the Philippines in the last 12 months, the country’s Bureau of Immigration said.

From June of 2016, a total of 43,233 Filipinos were offloaded from various points of exits within the country, said a senior officer of the BI, adding that such move was aimed at protecting them from human trafficking syndicates.

“Our Immigration Officers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and other ports of entry will remain vigilant in screening outbound Filipino travelers to make sure that they do not fall prey to human traffickers and illegal recruiters,” said BI Commissioner Jaime Morente in a statement.

The agency last year likewise prevented the entry of foreigners who were registered as sex offenders.

“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 said.

BI Port Operations Division chief Marc Red Mariñas said that in the past 12 months, a huge number of outbound passengers “offloaded” was mainly due to their failure to comply with requirements that prove they are legitimate tourists and not so-called “tourist workers” — referring to travelers disguised as tourists whose main objective is to look for jobs abroad.

In a statement issued on July 7, the bureau vowed that “there will be no letup in its campaign against human trafficking.”

Ninety per cent of offloading took place at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport while others have been implemented in other international gateways such as Mactan, Clark, Kalibo, Zamboanga, Davao and Iloilo.

Morente said that the anti-human trafficking drive has allowed the Philippines to fall under Tier 1 category, which means it has acknowledged that the crime is prevalent and has made sustained efforts to suppress it.

BI officials also disclosd that 502 of the passengers, suspected of being trafficking victims, were turned over to the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking for investigation. Another 433 were referred to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration for appropriate action.