The immigration bureau is urging authorities to enhance their vigilance over Philippine waters following disturbing reports that human traffickers are further exploiting the “southern backdoor” for forced labor.

Bureau of Immigration (BI) Commissioner Norman Tansingco said they have learned from repatriated victims of human trafficking that their recruiters used the backdoors to evade rigorous immigration inspections.

Tansingco warned aspiring overseas workers not to fall prey to these deceptive schemes. He emphasized the grave risks involved, urging individuals not to jeopardize their lives for the financial gain of these traffickers, who often make false promises of a better life.

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

“Do not risk your life for the financial gain of these traffickers. They would offer you the moon, but in many cases, victims end up with nothing,” he added.

Highlighting specific cases, Tansingco pointed out instances of repatriated victims who had been trafficked to countries like Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Myanmar.

One such case, he said, involved four individuals who attempted to travel to Cambodia by utilizing the Sulu and Tawi-Tawi backdoor route to Semporna, Malaysia. Despite being promised jobs as customer service representatives, they were subjected to physical abuse and forced to pay a significant amount when they were apprehended.

In another incident, an individual posed as an immigration officer to deceive the victims, although later investigation revealed that he was not affiliated with the BI.

Tansingco also shared an account of seven repatriated Filipinos who were trafficked to work in Myanmar and Thailand for scam companies. One of the victims initially stopped at NAIA Terminal 3, later succumbed to the enticement of her recruiter and traveled via Tawi-Tawi on a small boat, eventually ending up as a victim of love scamming in Mae Sot, Thailand.

Additionally, two other victims were repatriated from Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, where they were trafficked to work as customer care assistants in a pub. They recounted being recruited through Facebook with enticing promises of high monthly salaries, only to be exploited and subjected to forced labor against their will.

Tansingco expressed concern over the complexity and danger involved in these illegal departures, which ultimately lead victims to further victimization and potential arrest abroad.

Calling for collective action against trafficking, Tansingco urged local law enforcement agencies to investigate other potential exit points abused by traffickers. He stressed that anti-trafficking efforts should not be limited to airports and seaports but should begin at the community level through increased awareness and vigilance.

The BI has already shared information about these trafficking methods with the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking for further investigation and cooperation.

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