The Bureau of Immigration (BI) warned would-be overseas Filipino workers not to attempt to leave illegally as they increase their vulnerabilities to being abused and exploited while employed in foreign lands.
Immigration Commissioner Norman Tansingco issued the warning following reports that three women, who were tagged as trafficking victims, recently attempted to leave for Malaysia via the Zamboanga International Seaport (ZIS) by passing themselves as tourists but were intercepted by BI personnel.
“We commend our personnel at the Zamboanga port for their vigilance that resulted in the interception of these trafficking victims who were put out of harm’s way,” Tansingco said in a statement.
He said the incident should serve as a warning to the trafficking syndicates that our vigilance in combatting trafficking is not only observed at the airports but in the seaports as well,” the BI chief added.
According to BI’s immigration border protection and enforcement section (I-PROBES), the women were intercepted last Jan. 22 as they were about to board the vessel MV Antonia I bound for Sandakan, Malaysia.
The passengers were subjected to secondary inspector after the BI officers who processed them found inconsistencies in their documents.
BI intercepts 3 trafficking victims at Zambo seaport
The I-PROBES reported that when interviewed, all three women claimed that they were going to visit their relatives in Malaysia but gave conflicting and inconsistent answers to questions propounded to them.
“It was an obvious case of trafficking, as their documents were just handed to them before their trip,” said Tansingco. “They admitted to barely knowing each other, as this is a common modus of traffickers to send out groups pretending to be friends, officemates, or even relatives,” he added.
They were immediately turned over to the Zamboanga Sea-based Anti-Trafficking Task Force (ZSBATTF) for further investigation and assistance.
Tansingco warned traffickers that anti-trafficking efforts of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) are also found in the country’s southern port.
“Traffickers might think that there is less regulation in our southern port, hence attempts to send out victims there,” said Tansingco. “However, the IACAT’s presence remains strong there, ensuring that victims are intercepted before departure,” he added.