MANILA, Philippines - The government on Tuesday vowed to step up its campaign on illegal recruiters who helped sent underage Filipinos to work in Syria, the Department of Justice-Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) said.
Upon arrival of the 263 Filipino contract workers that were repatriated from strife-torn Syria, IACAT Programme Director Ruby Ramores said that most of the repatriated Filipinos from Syria possessed tampered travel documents or "baklas" passports and were minors when they went to the Middle East to work.
Trafficking syndicates replace the photographs of legitimate passports with photographs of other people who are usually minors, Ramores said.
The IACAT director said that they will compile the data they can collect from the repatriated workers so that they can hunt down all those responsible for sending the Filipino minors to work abroad illegally.
The repatriated workers, all of whom are female, arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) at around 10 a.m. on Tuesday aboard the Jordanian Air flight JE4371 that was chartered by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to bring home the migrant workers caught in between the fighting between Syrian government forces and rebels.
With the arrival of the 263 workers, the total number of repatriated Filipinos since the Civil War broke out in Syria 18 months ago is now 2,403.
The repatriated workers were welcomed at the airport by Vice President Jejomar Binay, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Albert F. Del Rosario, and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) chief Carmelita Dimzon. Also present was IOM National Officer and Labor Migration Specialist Ricardo Casco.
The OWWA Repatriation Team was on hand at the NAIA to assist the Filipino workers through immigration and Customs procedures. At the airport, the workers were briefed on the procedures they will undergo at the OWWA headquarters that include stress debriefing, before returning to their respective hometowns.
The overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) were brought to the halfway house where the Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecution team was waiting for them to take their statements of their complaints.
Del Rosario said that over a thousand more Filipinos have signed up at the Philippine Embassy in Damascus to avail of the voluntary repatriation.