BI bars 6 Jordan-bound posing as pilgrims  

THE Bureau of Immigration (BI) said six Filipinos pretending to be pilgrims to the Holy Land were stopped from leaving the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) on Thursday.

Immigration Commissioner Norman Tansingco said the passengers were about to board a Philippine Airlines flight to Amman, Jordan, when they were intercepted by members of the BI’s Immigration Protection and Border Enforcement Section (I-PROBES) at the NAIA Terminal 1.

“They all claimed to be traveling together for a pilgrimage but they were unaware of their travel itinerary. They are also not known to each other,” Tansingco said.

It was learned that two of the passengers were previously stopped from boarding their flight last September, after BI officers deferred their departure for having numerous inconsistencies in their statements and documentation.

“Our I-PROBES found that the two passengers were supposed to join a group of 14 ‘pilgrims’ who left the country last September 27.  Ten of them never returned, and are now presumably working abroad,” Tansingco bared.

It was later confirmed that the group were traveling to Jordan to seek employment. The passengers stated during the interview that an alleged male pastor arranged their trip, and that they all paid him large sums of money ranging from Php 75,000 to Php 150,000 each. The said pastor was the same person who was pinpointed by the “pilgrims” who left last September as the one who arranged their purported pilgrimage.

Tansingco said that the case has been forwarded to the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT).  The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), as part of the IACAT, is set to continue the investigation against the modus.

It can be recalled that in 2011, six Lebanon-bound Filipinas were intercepted by the BI after posing as nuns. They were reportedly told by their recruiter to dress up like nuns to evade questioning.  They admitted that they were actually departing to work as household service workers in Lebanon.