New regulations to curb human trafficking

While respecting each Filipino’s right to travel overseas, Manila has now stepped up its anti-human trafficking drive as its 11-agency member task force, responsible for the prevention of illegal recruitment, bonded labour, forced prostitution and other modern-day forms of slavery, has approved stricter guidelines for international Filipino travellers (IFTs).

The guidelines stipulate that IFTs will be refused departure to their countries of destination if they fail to prove to the Bureau of Immigration (BI) officers, stationed at international airports and seaports, that they are not victims of human trafficking, when they are “subjected to a secondary inspection.”
They would be asked to complete the BI Border Control Questionnaire.
Primarily subjected to a second investigation are the visit visa or tourist visa holders.
This has been initiated since records from various Philippine diplomatic and labour offices worldwide show a big number of Filipinos ending up as illegal or tourist workers, most vulnerable to all forms of human trafficking. Also, their repatriation has been proven to be arduous since in the first place, they have not been properly documented as migrant workers with documents and papers to support whatever legal and legitimate claims they are entitled to.The guidelines were recently submitted by a technical working group (TWG) to Manila’s Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), chaired by Vice President Jejomar Binay and headed by the Department of Justice.It is a consequence of the continuing clamour of Filipinos in the UAE since 2010, when relatives and friends of Filipinos travelling to the country on visit visa, have been asked to provide them with the document known as the affidavit of support, notarised primarily by the Philippine Consulate General in Dubai, but have not guaranteed their Manila exit.While some had claimed they were forced to shell out huge amounts of grease money to BI officers so they could just board their aircraft and not be offloaded, some had alleged that they were subjected to unfair and humiliating offloading procedures.
A press statement from the Philippines’ Office of the Vice President said IFTs will be interrogated for the second time if they are travellers without financial capacity to travel and are escorted or accompanied by a foreigner or foreigners not related to them; minors travelling alone or unaccompanied by either of their parents or legal guardian and without the authorised clearance from the Department of Social Welfare and Development; repatriated irregular or undocumented workers who are not allowed to travel without any clearance from the IACAT; partners or spouses of foreign nationals who would meet up or marry their fiancés without the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) Guidance and Counselling Certificate.
Moreover, IFTs who will be subjected to a second interrogation are those going to the 41 countries with which Manila had imposed a deployment ban in 2011 since these are states which cannot guarantee the protection of their migrant workers and which also do not have any existing bilateral agreement or arrangement on the protection of the rights of overseas Filipino workers.
Also, IFTs would be refused departure from Manila if their countries of destination are those where they lived continuously for more than one year as visit or tourist visa holders.
Binay expressed confidence that with the guidelines, the international trafficking of Filipinos would be mitigated and IFTs would only be offloaded if they are proven to be undocumented or with improper and incomplete documents.
“If there are still complaints stemming from oversight in the guidelines, we will act and improve on them,” said the official who is also the presidential adviser on the concerns of overseas Filipino workers.
Filipinos, particularly women and children from the remote provinces and majority from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, are among the frequent victims of international human trafficking syndicates.
Some are even trafficked by their own relatives.
It is the aim of Binay and the IACAT to improve on the anti-human trafficking drive and image of the Philippines in the international arena, which is currently on the Tier 2 level of the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report (USDTIPR).
That means, Manila “has not fully complied with the USDTIPR’s minimum standards but is making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with those standards.”
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