BI on alert for Filipino workers illegally deployed to Iraq

Robie de Guzman

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Friday ordered its officers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and other ports in the country to be on alert following reports of possible deployment of Filipino workers to Iraq by human trafficking syndicates.

In a statement, immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente ordered immigration officials to rigidly screen overseas Filipino workers (OFW) traveling to Dubai which was allegedly used by human traffickers as a transit point for the deployment of Filipino workers to Iraq.

Morente’s order came after the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) alerted the bureau on the alleged recruitment of OFWs by syndicates through social media.

The BI cited reports on online ads for newly-opened job vacancies in Iraq which falsely claim that the deployment ban in Iraq has already been lifted.

“Immigration officers are directed to exercise extra vigilance in clearing the departure of Filipino travelers bound for Dubai, particularly those who are departing as tourists, and make sure that they are not going to other foreign destinations in order to work,” Morente said in his directive to BI Port Operations Division (POD) chief Grifton Medina.

The immigration chief also directed airport officers to monitor names of several OFWs who were allegedly illegally recruited to work as restaurant waiters in Baghdad.

“Be sure that none of these illegal OFWs disguised as tourists are able to leave the country. They should be stopped and turned over to the IACAT (Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking) if encountered, for their protection,” Morente said.

Medina also shared information from the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad, which states that the said recruits were already issued visas authorizing them to work in Iraq.

“There are also reports that Iraq-bound OFWs are deployed there by first sending them off as tourists to Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur before they proceed to Baghdad,” Medina said.

The illegally-recruited Filipino workers pay the deployment cost of their recruiters through salary deduction, which according to Morente, is a form of human trafficking through debt-bondage.

“These illegal recruiters will sweet-talk their victims, encouraging them to take the job offers while the costs will be deducted from their salaries,” he said.

“When they get to their worksites, many are enslaved, given meager salaries, and made to work more than they supposed to in order to pay off their alleged debt,” he added.

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