Philippines tightens watch on African arrivals

This file photo, taken in 2011, shows a member of the Manila international airport immigration team checking travellers' documents. Philippine airport immigration officials have tightened monitoring of arrivals from Africa after a spate of arrests of drug mules from the continent, according to a spokeswoman

Philippine airport immigration officials have tightened monitoring of arrivals from Africa after a spate of arrests of drug mules from the continent, according to a spokeswoman.

The increased vigilance at all airports was imposed after two Ghanaians were caught on March 13, bringing to eight the number of Africans stopped at Philippine airports in three weeks while trying to smuggle in illegal drugs.

Bureau of Immigration spokeswoman Maria Antonette Mangrobang on Saturday told AFP: "This is not discrimination. They will not be treated poorly. We are just asking our immigration people to be a bit more vigilant."

If a new arrival cannot fully explain why he or she is coming to the Philippines, immigration personnel can bar them from entering, she said.

Mangrobang said she could not say why so many Africans, including nationals from Kenya, Uganda, Ghana and Guinea, had recently been caught trying to smuggle illegal drugs into the Philippines.

The drug enforcement agency said it has arrested 38 members of African drug syndicates since last year, and information obtained from them led to the capture of 14 accomplices abroad.

Most of these have been caught trying to smuggle the illegal drug methamphetamine hydrochloride, popularly known as "ice", into the Philippines.