6 years and counting: BI retains high mark in US anti-human trafficking index

Published July 14, 2021, 2:14 PM

by Jun Ramirez

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) hailed the Philippines’ retention of its “Tier 1” classification in the United States (US) government’s trafficking in persons (TIP) index.

(Photo by Kevin Lanceplaine/ Unsplash)

BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said the bureau fully appreciated the 2021 TIP report of the US State Department, which affirmed that the Philippines had met the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.

With this, the BI chief vowed to actively pursue its drive to stop human trafficking in the country’s international ports.

“For the sixth year in a row, the Philippines managed to retain its Tier 1 ranking in the annual TIP report. We in the bureau will not waver in our resolve to combat this menace,” Morente said.

Tier 1 is the highest marking, indicating that a government has made efforts to address the problem of human trafficking, and meets the US Trafficking Victims Protection Act standards for the elimination of trafficking.

To maintain a Tier 1 ranking, governments need to demonstrate appreciable progress each year in combatting trafficking.

The Philippines shares the same ranking as 27 other countries such as Australia, Canada, France, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, United Kingdom, and the US.

Morente underscored the important role that the BI performs in the fight against trafficking as immigration officers constitute the last line of defense in preventing the departure of trafficking victims.

Morente reported that despite the massive drop in passenger volume last year due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, BI officers at airports still managed to stop the departure of more than 11,700 passengers in 2020, compared to more than 31,200 in 2019.

He said members of the bureau’s travel control and enforcement unit (TCEU) have continued to see to it that outbound Filipinos comply with the guidelines and requirements for departing travelers.

It was learned that of the passengers whose departures were deferred, 294 were considered as potential human trafficking victims for presenting dubious travel documents and misrepresenting the purpose of their overseas trip.

The individuals were turned over to the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) for purposes of investigation and filing of charges against their recruiters.

The BI’s port operations division also reported that it stopped 35 foreign-registered sex offenders from entering the country last year.