SEVENTEEN suspected human trafficking victims who were illegally recruited to work as household service workers (HSW) in the Middle East were intercepted by agents of the Bureau of Immigration at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA).
According to BI Port Operations Division chief Grifton Medina, the 17 female passengers disguised as tourists.
The 17 were intercepted on Wednesday and Thursday last week before they could board their flights to HongKong and Macau en route to their final destinations in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
The victims were turned over to the MCIA Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking for assistance and further investigation.
Medina said the victims were recruited by a syndicate, which separately booked them on several flights in order to mislead immigration officers on the purpose of their trip, that is to work abroad without documentation.
BI-MCIA’s Travel Control and Enforcement Unit (TCEU) head Ma. Asuncion Palma-Gil said the 17 passengers were offloaded from five different flights. Thirteen of the victims were hired to work in Dubai while the other four were bound for Qatar
“They all admitted having UAE and Qatari visas in their possession and that they were recruited by individuals they only met on Facebook or through people they know who are currently working in Dubai and Doha,” Palma-Gil said.
The victims said they were not familiar with their travel itinerary. They said they would only rely on the instructions of their handlers upon arrival in Hongkong and Macau.
“This is a clear case of human trafficking, wherein victims who are jobless and have no visible means of support are sent abroad and put in harm’s way to satisfy the cravings for profit of unscrupulous recruiters,” Palma-Gil said.