Sunday, January 9, 2011

The Philippine's Bureau of Immigration prevents 9 women from illegally flying to Lebanon

MANILA, Philippines—The Bureau of Immigration said on Thursday it has intercepted nine Lebanon-bound women who attempted to leave the country via Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) using passports with fake immigration departure stamps.
BI officer-in-charge Ronaldo Ledesma, in a statement, confirmed that the women—stopped by immigration agents as they were about to board a Philippine Airlines flight to Singapore on Monday—were indeed victims of human trafficking.
Ledesma said the would-be OFWs were hurriedly walking past the immigration counters when they were spotted by members of the BI’s travel control enforcement unit (TCEU) at the NAIA and accosted them.
“They evaded inspection by our immigration officers because it turned out that their passports already had fake immigration departure stamps,” the BI chief added.
The agency said the women planned to work as domestic helpers and would use Singapore as a jump-off point to the Lebanese capital Beirut.
The Philippine government maintains a ban on the deployment ban for overseas Filipino workers to Lebanon because of security concerns and rampant labor rights violations there.
“It is obvious that the human trafficking syndicates
are feeling the pinch of our intensified campaign that they are resorting to all means to bring their victims out of the country,” Ledesma said.
Lawyer Maria Antonette Bucasas, BI airport operations division chief, declined to divulge the names of the off-loaded workers in deference to their plight as human trafficking victims.
She said the women admitted during questioning that they were hired to work as domestic helpers in Lebanon.
“One of them even presented her Lebanon visa, which was concealed inside a chocolate bar wrapper,” Bucasas said.
She said the case of the off-loaded passengers was referred to the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) for further investigation.
The BI and IACAT’s intensified campaign against human trafficking is part of the Aquino administration’s efforts to remove the Philippines from the US State Department’s Tier 2 watch list of countries with severe trafficking situations.
The campaign has resulted in the off-loading of thousands of prospective OFWs, most of whom only have tourist visas although they intend to work in their countries of destination.

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