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The Bureau of Immigration (BI) urged aspiring Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) to avoid human traffickers and illegal recruiters who would prey on their vulnerabilities, after the agency uncovered the recurrence a modus operandi of a syndicate that houses and trains its victims at safe houses before deployment abroad. Bureau of Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente issued the reminder after two women were recently barred from leaving the country for misrepresenting their age and narrating their experience with the syndicate that recruited them. The women had alleged that they were kept by their handlers in a safehouse in Paco, Manila for two months before they were booked for their flights.

Morente instructed the bureau’s port operations division (POD) and travel control and enforcement unit (TCEU) to conduct strict profiling and inspection of departing passengers to ensure that no underage OFWs are able to leave. According to Bureau of Immigration POD chief Grifton Medina, the two women, aged 19 and 20, were intercepted last Sept. 21 at the NAIA terminal 2 in their attempt to board a connecting flight from Dubai to Saudi Arabia. Medina said the passengers both presented valid passports, visas, job contract, and overseas employment certificates but the birth dates in their documents were intentionally altered to make it appear that they meet the age requirement for Household Service Workers which is 23 years. “Both women initially claimed that they were 26 years old, but eventually admitted their real age upon questioning,” Medina said. Bureau of Immigration-TCEU chief Timotea Barizo said that the women recounted how they were housed for two months at a safehouse in Manila where they were briefed and taught by their recruiters how to respond to questions from immigration officers. “We've heard this in the past, usually victims would be briefed a few days before their flight. But now they're actually housed for months to train on how to evade immigration questioning," said Barizo. "The two victims admitted that their documents were given only prior to departure, and that they were told to open it only after check in. This forces them to go on and comply with the scheme despite the discrepancy since they are already there,” Barizo said. Morente reiterated his reminder to OFWs not to fall prey to these schemes. "Transact only with legitimate agencies accredited by the POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Administration)," he reminded.

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