Photo of the Centennial terminal area at the N...

More than 21,000 prospective overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) were stopped at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport from Aug. to Dec. last year as part of the government’s intensified campaign against human trafficking, the Philippine Bureau of Immigration said.

Immigration officer-in-charge Ronaldo Ledesma said the 21,709 persons who were offloaded from their flights all had tourist visas but intended to work upon reaching their destinations, putting them at risk with abuses, exploitation and even incarceration.

The BI started its drive against the so-called ‘tourist workers’ in August after Ledesma was appointed OIC.

The campaign, which was launched on orders of President Benigno Aquino III and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, aims to protect undocumented OFWs, most of whom are victims of illegal recruitment and human trafficking syndicates.

Suspected tourist workers are barred from boarding their flights once they fail to show the necessary clearance and employment permits from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

Lawyer Maria Antonette Bucasas, BI airport operations division chief, said most of the offloaded passengers were bound for traditional OFW destinations such as Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong and the Middle East.

Bucasas reported that of the total offloaded passengers, 11,990 were intercepted at the NAIA 1 terminal, 6,397 at the NAIA 3, and 3,322 were at the NAIA 2.

Ledesma said some offloading cases are being investigated by the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) headed by Justice Undersecretary Jose Vicente Salazar, who is also undersecretary in charge of the immigration bureau.

“Hopefully, the investigations will result in the successful prosecution and conviction of the illegal recruiters and human traffickers who victimized and enticed these passengers to leave without proper documentation," Ledesma said.

He vowed to pursue without letup the BI’s drive against trafficking not only at the NAIA but in other major ports of the country of as well.

The government’s anti-trafficking drive was prompted by a US State Department report released last year listing the Philippines in Tier 2 of its human trafficking watch list. The US government has threatened to suspend all non-humanitarian aid to all countries with serious trafficking problems including the Philippines.

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  • Karen

    cant somehow find the date of this article but it still happening now. these BIs are given too much power and freedom to trample on Filipinos rights to travel. Of course they expect to find work! what is the problem with that. Why not accept and make it like a sin to try and travel abroad first as a tourist–as long as valid ang mga papel–then try find jobs! this is the reality. Why keep making pinoys trying to go out like criminals using the excuse of trafficking. Sobrang nakakasakal na mga BI na ito! napaka vague ng alituntunin nila sa pagstop ng mga pasahero na akala nilang lahat kunwari eh baka matrafficking. thats not the case. if they dont get what they want tong mga BI na ito they try and stop people for personal reasons lalo na pag natamaan mga pride/ego nila na walang kinalaman sa right to travel ng pasahero. sila pa ang inoopohan palagi, di marunong magngingiti, walang kapolite polite, makitang dukha lamang pinoy ang kaharap kung kausapin at matahin akala mo kung sino na. eh mga guwardiya pa lang sa mga pinto na di naman trabaho magtingin ng mga passport eh ang hilig magtingin ng passports at tickets..kahit saan ka dumaan gusto iycheck just to feel like their in authority. ano sila BI din. di naman marunong tumingin ng mga papeles. puwede lang, hindi ako ofw pero everytime i fly..nakakainis na makita ganyan ganyanin mga ofw nation na puro pineperahan nalamang at ginagawang kalabaw luminya sa separate na linya kesyo! hindi lang yan, kahit na may kayang magtravel kahit pinagipunan ng kabayan para makapamasyal maayos mga papeles inoffload pa rin! 90percent of the time mali ang BI at ayaw umamin ng mali. sobrang mahilig sa power mga pinky katakot.