Immigration tightens passenger-screening to thwart entry of foreign jihadists

MANILA-- The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Wednesday ordered its officers officers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and other ports of entry in the country to tighten screening of arriving foreign passengers, particularly from countries where jihadists came from.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente directed Marc Red MariAas, the bureau's port operations division chief, to subject all foreigner nationals to a stringent inspection, following reports that some of the terrorists fighting government troops in Marawi City are foreign nationals.

"Those who have questionable documents or doubtful purposes in coming to the country should be excluded and booked on the first available flight to their port of origin, he said in a statement.

Morente noted that it was difficult to assess and establish if an arriving foreign visitor was a suspected terrorist, especially if the latter was completely documented and able to satisfactorily answer questions propounded to him by the immigration officer.

"That is why we have in our database the names of thousands of suspected international terrorists that were given to us by the different law enforcement and intelligence agencies here and abroad, he said.

The BI chief explained that a foreign passenger whose name and description matches the person appearing in our derogatory list is immediately turned back and barred from entering the country.

On the other hand, MariAas noted that aside from alerting BI personnel in all the international airports, he also issued a similar directive to immigration officers assigned to the southern seaports and border crossing stations in the South.

"They were instructed to coordinate with the military and police authorities in their areas in conducting border screening formalities for foreigners arriving in their respective ports, he said.

MariAas believed that most of the foreign jihadists now involve in the Marawi siege entered the country via the backdoor and did not pass inspection by immigration authorities, given the country's long and porous shorelines.

On the other hand, BI Spokesperson Antonette Mangrobang did not identify the nations that have allegedly links to extremist organizations.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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