Immigration guidelines meant to protect Filipino travelers from human trafficking –Palace

March 18, 2014 8:58 am 

By Azer N. Parrocha

MANILA, March 17 (PNA) — Malacanang said on Monday that the Bureau of Immigration (BI) guidelines on travel overseas are meant to protect Filipino travelers from human trafficking and other forms of crime.

Presidential Spokespersons Edwin Lacierda clarified this in a Palace media briefing after public complaints were raised via Twitter on how immigration officers would allegedly “violate” Filipinos’ constitutional right to travel abroad by “harassing” them during inspection.

Lacierda explained that the guidelines are not at all meant to prevent someone from travelling overseas.

“These guidelines are meant to protect our citizens from human trafficking and also to let the criminals and syndicates know that we know what they’re doing,” Lacierda said.

“…The guidelines were set up precisely to look into some benchmarks or some points where an Immigration officer will be able to, at the very least, detect tell-tale signs of human trafficking,” he further said.

Lacierda cited Immigration Commissioner Siegfred Mison, who said that the BI does “not prevent travel solely on the basis of financial capacity but holds abeyance of the travel of persons with a doubtful purpose or stay.”

“We periodically train our frontline personnel to be courteous in performing screening instructions. We have developed a questionnaire where all travelers subject to secondary inspection fill up to enable our Immigration officer to determine whether these travelers belong to the vulnerable group, to trafficking category using the existing guidelines,” Lacierda cited Mison as saying.

He explained that during the primary inspection, documents required such as passport, visa, and round-trip tickets will be checked. Meanwhile, secondary inspection will be needed when “deemed necessary for the purpose of protecting vulnerable victims of human trafficking and illegal recruitment and other related offenses" through the assessment of a set of circumstances.

“The circumstances are laid down in the guidelines itself. And when you are subject to secondary inspection, you are asked to accomplish a Bureau of Immigration border controlled questionnaire to be furnished by the Immigration officer,” Lacierda said.

He then read the guidelines as to when a traveler should be automatically subjected to secondary inspection:

* Travelers without financial capacity to travel escorted/accompanied by a foreigner who is not related to him/her.

* Minor traveling alone or unaccompanied by either parent or legal guardian without a required travel clearance from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

* Repatriated, irregular workers in which case travel may not be allowed without the clearance from the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT).

* Partners and spouses of foreign nationals intending to depart, to meet and/or marry his/her fiancée/fiance without the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) guidelines and counseling certificates.

* Passengers traveling to countries with existing deployment bans, alert levels, and travel advisories, and those in possession of a visa to the said countries.

* Passengers who stayed abroad for more than one year during the previous departure from the country as a tourist/temporary visitor intending to depart for the second and/or subsequent time.

Lacierda admitted that the BI’s guidelines are not perfect, noting that an immigration officer once asked Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte to cite the purpose of her travel.

“Just to give you an example…when Usec Valte left the country, she was asked by an Immigration official: ‘What’s the purpose of your travel?’” he said.

He added that even Valte’s son was asked if he was really her son.

“These are questions that you would normally be asked and, again, BI has appealed for understanding. This is not meant to make your life — make your travel difficult…,” Lacierda stressed.

The Malacanang official said he hopes the people would realize the government’s concern for human trafficking since many Filipinos are being trafficked abroad.

“Our nationals are being trafficked abroad, so we want to prevent that, and these particular guidelines and implementation of these guidelines help elevate our status to Tier 2,” Lacierda said.

“..We have guidelines provided in the BI and I am saying…these may not be perfect. There might be instances where somebody who is not an undocumented Filipino may be asked questions and we ask for understanding and apology for them,” he added. (PNA)

SCS/ANP

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