BI on alert vs. trafficking of underage OFWs

MANILA Immigration authorities have implemented strict screening of departing overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) to ensure that they are of legal age and eligible for overseas deployment.

This, after Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente ordered the BI Port Operations Division to alert personnel manning immigration booths to conduct strict screening of OFWs leaving the country amid reports that trafficking syndicates continue to recruit underage Filipino women to work abroad.

Otherwise, in cases of doubt, our officers are instructed to refer these passengers to our Travel Control and Enforcement Unit (TCEU) for secondary inspection, the BI chief said in a statement.

BI Port Operations Division chief Grifton Medina has directed personnel to conduct pre-screening of departing OFWs to watch out for passengers who appear to be minors or below 23 years old, which is the age requirement for overseas household service workers.

The measure came after a 21-year-old Filipina household worker bound for Saudi Arabia was intercepted by BI officers at the NAIA terminal 1 last March 13.

She was about to board a Philippine Airlines flight to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

According to Glenn Ford Comia, BI-TCEU NAIA 1 head supervisor, the passenger admitted during questioning that she is not aged 25 as indicated in her passport, as she was actually born in 1995, making her only 21 years old.

She said that she only learned that her date of birth was changed when she received her travel documents from her recruiter on the day of her flight, he said.

The woman was subsequently turned over to the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) for further investigation and assistance.

Last year, the BI intercepted more than a hundred Filipina OFWs, majority of whom are minors at NAIA.

All of them had passports with falsified birth dates, although they had valid overseas employment permits, working visas and job contracts. (PNA)

Source: Philippines News Agency

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