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Be vigilant vs trafficking schemes — Bureau of Immigration

THE Bureau of Immigration (BI) called for increased vigilance against emerging schemes employed by trafficking syndicates and illegal recruiters to Filipinos who wish to work overseas.

BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said that in 2021, the BI has foiled a total of 688 attempts of human trafficking and illegal recruitment in the country’s international ports.

“Over the year, we have observed the tactics of these illegal recruiters. The victims would usually be given fake documents or fed fake statements, either to work illegally abroad or to attempt to depart for countries with imposed deployment bans,” Morente said.


According to Morente, the warning is aimed at raising awareness on the dangers of human trafficking, especially during the global pandemic.

In the same year, the BI deferred the departure of a total of 13,680 passengers in 2021, majority of which for having improper documentation.

“In these trying times, Filipinos in dire financial need become easy prey to illegal recruiters who will assure them of lucrative jobs abroad,” he said.

In departure formalities, passengers are processed by immigration officers under the BI’s port operations division. If discrepancies in their documentation or statements are found, they are referred for further inspection to the BI’s Travel Control and Enforcement Unit (TCEU).


BI TCEU Head Ma. Timotea Barizo enumerated common modi operandi employed by human trafficking syndicates.

Barizo said that one of the most common ‘modus operandi’ of human traffickers is the falsification of Overseas Employment Certificates (OECs) and the subsequent tampering with Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) forms.

“There are instances when departing passengers would present fake stamps supposedly to appear that their documents were cleared by the POEA,” she said.

Another scheme that the BI discovered is the use of counterfeit or invalid working visas of either first-time OFWs, or of Balik-Manggagawa or vacationing OFWs.


“In some cases, we find OECs that are valid but do not match the visa of the passenger. This is also considered illegal, as it lists the OFW under a certain job, only to end with a different work, with a significantly lower salary than what was agreed upon,” Barizo shared.

Barizo then added another scheme done to aspiring OFWs who are given valid OECs and employment documents, but are also given a separate visa to work for a different employer in another country. Said passengers would usually present employment documents with jobsites in Maldives, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, or Albania, but with UAE as their actual final destination.

In addition, the recruitment of underaged Filipinos to work as household service workers (HSWs) abroad is still rampant, said Barizo. These passengers, mostly women aged 17 to 21, usually assume the identity of other people and present fraudulently acquired passports in the airports to meet the minimum age requirement for HSWs of 23 years old.

Aside from faking employment documents, human traffickers and illegal recruiters have also instructed victims to mislead immigration officers of their purpose of travel. According to Barizo, some passengers would use marriage certificates to pretend to visit their alleged spouses abroad.

“Upon inspection by our forensic documents laboratory, the certificates are found to be genuine, but the marriages were sham, the victims did not even know their supposed spouses,” shared Barizo.

Barizo adds that the common practice of attempting to use tourist visas to work abroad still remains.

Morente expressed his dismay towards the evolving schemes of human traffickers. “Victims are being enticed with high paying jobs abroad with fake visas, made-up stories, and other fraudulently-acquired travel documents. It is disappointing that this happening even during these trying times,” he said. Morente then reiterated his earlier warning to aspiring OFWs not to fall prey to such schemes. “This is a type of modern-day slavery. They will entice you with a promise of a better life, only to end up heavily indebted, and sometimes even stranded abroad. Do not fall prey to such schemes. Aspiring OFWs should protect themselves by following the law and observing the policies aimed at protecting their rights,” added Morente. (Jantzen Tan)

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