Human traffickers using Southern Mindanao as backdoor

BUREAU of Immigration (BI) Commissioner Norman Tansingco called for increased vigilance in Philippine waters following reports of human trafficking victims utilizing the Southern ‘backdoor’.

Tansingco made the call after receiving reports that several repatriated victims of human trafficking passed through informal ports to evade strict immigration inspection.

“Different modus operandi are being utilized by these traffickers, and at times this also includes taking small boats out of the country,” said Tansingco.

He also reiterated his warning to aspiring overseas workers not to agree to such schemes. “Do not risk your life for the financial gain of these traffickers,” said Tansingco. “They would offer you the moon, but in many cases, victims end up with nothing,” he warned.

Tansingco cited several cases including repatriated victims from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Myanmar.

In June, the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) shared information to the BI about 4 individuals trafficked abroad, who utilized the Sulu and Tawi-tawi backdoor route to Semporna, Malaysia in an attempt to travel to Cambodia.

They were assured work as customer service representatives, but were reportedly beaten up and made to pay P65,000 pesos each when they were intercepted in Malaysia.

An individual was also said to have presented himself to the victims as an immigration officer, but was found not to be an employee of the BI.

Tansingco also shared that on July 14, a total of 7 repatriated Filipinos arrived from Bangkok, Thailand at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1 after being trafficked to work in Myanmar and Thailand for scam companies.

One of the female victims was earlier stopped at NAIA T3, but a few weeks after was enticed by
her recruiter to depart via Tawi-tawi on board a small boat.

She stayed in Malaysia for one night with another trafficked victim, then transferred to a speedboat to Brunei, then later to an airport going to Thailand. They worked as love scammers in Mae Sot, and had to pay 300,000 baht to be released by the company. They were also detained by Thai authorities before being deported to the Philippines.

On July 15, two other victims were repatriated from Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia after being trafficked to work as customer care assistants in a pub. They arrived at NAIA Terminal 3 and recounted how they were recruited via Facebook, and offered a P50-100k monthly salary.

They flew from Manila to Puerto Princesa and boarded a boat that transferred them to a bigger boat to Sabah. There, they were fetched by a Malaysian recruiter and transferred to Labuan, Malaysia where they were made to work in a bar and go out with guests against their will. They sought help from the Philippine Embassy, who initiated their repatriation.

“These victims are being enticed by their recruiters to agree to such complicated and dangerous ways of departing the country to evade immigration inspection,” said Tansingco. “But they still end up victimized, made to do work that could also get them arrested abroad,” he added.

He then requested local law enforcement agencies to look into other exit areas being abused by traffickers.