MANILA, Philippines — The Bureau of Immigration stopped more than 11,700 Filipino passengers from leaving the country in 2020.
Aside from government efforts against illegal recruitment and human trafficking, last year also saw travel restrictions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a statement Monday, Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said the bureau stopped the departure of 11,706 passengers in 2020. Of these, 9,411 were supposed to fly out of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
This is 70% lower than the 38,522 travelers barred from leaving the country in 2019, BI said.
Morente explained to travel restrictions and international flight suspensions enforced due to the COVID-19 pandemic naturally caused a dip in the number of Filipinos who traveled abroad in 2020.
Fraudulent or missing documents
But even with strict travel restrictions in the past year — the government only started easing the ban in October — “the pandemic did not stop human traffickers and illegal recruiters from continuing with their nefarious activities and recruiting victims,” the statement read.
BI Intelligence chief Fortunato Manahan Jr., who supervises the bureau’s travel control and enforcement unit, explained that passengers are barred from leaving the country commonly due to failure to present required documents, carrying fraudulent documents and misrepresentation.
He also said that 295 passengers were turned over to the Inter-Agency Council against Trafficking (IACAT) as possible victims of trafficking.
Morente, meanwhile, expressed worry that once international travel returns to normal, the number of human trafficking victims may also rise. He reminded those who wish to work abroad that illegal recruiters will make them agree with below-standard arrangements.
He then urged aspiring OFWs to coordinate with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to ensure that their work is legal and registered.
The Philippines maintained its Tier 1 ranking in the US State Department’s 2019 Trafficking in Persons report released in July 2020. — Kristine Joy Patag
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