By Jun Ramirez
The Bureau of Immigration (BI) announced on Wednesday the interception of 100 undocumented Filipino workers over the last couple of weeks at the Zamboanga International Seaport (ZIS).
According to BI Commissioner Jaime Morente, the female passengers were intercepted in three separate incidents by members of the BI travel control and enforcement unit (TCEU).
Intercepted last Feb. 10 were 37 trafficking victims who attempted to board the MV Antonia 1 bound for Sandakan, Malaysia.
ZIS-TCEU head Usman Sabdani reported that during interview, the 37 gave conflicting statements, while some presented altered passports and supporting documents. It was later found that most were bound for Qatar and Dubai, where they were recruited to illegally work without the proper employment documents.
On Feb. 17, another 17 female passengers were deferred departure while attempting to board the same vessel, and were found to be mostly traveling to Dubai to work as household service workers or caregivers.
On Monday, 56 passengers also bound for Sandakan, Malaysia were intercepted by immigration personnel and were found to be actually traveling to Dubai, Qatar, Bahrain, Lebanon, and Kuwait, where they were recruited to work.
Interviews with those intercepted revealed that they came from different parts of the country, and were recruited by agencies that some met on Facebook.
Morente said the workers were trying to use Malaysia as a jump-off point to other Middle Eastern countries, where they received job offers to work in the service industry.
“These illegal syndicates are seemingly attempting to look for other exit points to be able to evade strict immigration inspection,” Morente said.
The 100 were turned over to representatives of the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking for assistance and further investigation.
“We are pushing that cases be filed against their illegal recruiters. This is clearly a case of human trafficking, and even those from the north travel all the way to Zamboanga in an attempt to depart illegally to work abroad,” Morente added.