OVER 20,000 Filipino travellers have been barred from leaving the country from January to June 2016, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) reported on Tuesday.
According to BI Commissioner Jaime Morente, a total of 20,316 passengers were offloaded in the first six months of the year.
He noted that the immigration officers required travellers to present further proof that they were legitimate tourists and were not going abroad to work without proper documents.
Likewise, Morente said that a passenger’s departure is deferred whenever immigration officers suspect that the former is a possible victim of human trafficking and illegal recruitment.
“The campaign has been in high gear, and there will be no letup in our effort to secure our citizens from being victims of human trafficking or illegal recruitment,” he added.
It was learned that of the more than 20,000 travellers barred from leaving the country, more than three-fourths were denied departure at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) while the rest were offloaded at the airports in Mactan, Clark, Iloilo, Kalibo, and Davao.
About 1,500 of them were intercepted at the Zamboanga seaport.
The bureau’s Travel Control and Enforcement Unit (TCEU) also referred the cases of 317 offloaded passengers to the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) for further investigation and possible filing of court cases.
BI data showed that a total of 45,989 deferred departures in 2015.
On the other hand, Morente warned BI personnel who are involved in such activity that they will be punished if found guilty of conniving with unscrupulous individuals.
“We are determined to impose the stiffest disciplinary action of any of our personnel caught conniving with these trafficking syndicates,” he added.
The immigration chief issued the statement after President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent State of the Nation Address (SONA) where the fight against human trafficking was identified as one of his administration’s priority programs.
It also comes in the wake of the release of the US State Department’s report placing the Philippines under Tier 1 of its annual trafficking in persons (TIP) watchlist.
Countries under Tier 1 "fully meet" the minimum standards "for the elimination of human trafficking" under the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 2000. The Philippines is the only Southeast Asian country under Tier 1. (FP/Sunnex)