HUMAN TRAFFICKING | Female OFWs made to wear dark lipstick to look older intercepted by BI

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) intercepted three overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) at the Clark International Airport after presenting falsified documents to make them appear older to be able to work abroad.

BI commissioner Jaime Morente on Monday said the three women, who all hail from Cotabato, attempted to depart for Doha, Qatar last June 13 to work as household workers when they got caught by the Travel Control and Enforcement Unit (TCEU).

“They later confirmed that they misrepresented their age to be able to work as household service workers abroad,” said Morente in a statement. “They admitted that they are only in their early 20s and were given instructions by their recruiter to wear dark lipstick to make themselves appear older than they really are.”

The three OFWs claimed to be 28 or 29 years old, even presenting documentation showing their assumed age. The TCEU, however, found numerous inconsistent statements about their personal details when interviewed.

“They were told by their recruiter not to fall in line with older passengers so as not to stand out, and were instructed to never admit their real age,” said Morente. “This is a clear case of human trafficking wherein unscrupulous individuals would victimize young women for personal gain.”

The three have already been referred to the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) for further investigation and assistance in filing charges against their recruiter.

Human trafficking has been a long withstanding issue in the country and it only got worse amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as many struggling Filipinos have grown desperate to look for work.

Just last June 6, IACAT rescued 303 indigenous people, including 110 minors, from a human trafficking scheme. They were intercepted at the Manila North Harbor Seaport, in Tondo, Manila.

Nearly 12,000 Filipinos were prevented from leaving the country in 2020 as part of the BI’s campaign against human trafficking and illegal recruitment. The figure, however, was 70% lower compared to 2019 when 38,522 travelers were barred from leaving.

“I pray that the cases against these illegal recruiters push through, so that we finally put a stop to this societal evil from its roots, and put behind bars those who victimize young women aspiring to work abroad,” said Morente.

Also due to the COVID-19 pandemic, online child sexual exploitation has increased. IACAT reported that the cases rose to 1.2 million in 2020 or three times higher than the 426,000 cases recorded in 2019.

In a report by Relief Web, a humanitarian group, last February, said cases in the Philippines increased by 246.6% or 202,605 more reports during the enhanced community quarantine from March to May last year. – (Kiko Demigillo/PM)

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