The Bureau of Immigration (BI) and the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) formed a collaborative effort to fight the rising incidents of human trafficking in the country.
BI Commissioner Norman Tansinco who has long been vocal about the urgent need to combat the issue of human trafficking, has raised the concern over the alarming reports of trafficking in person, victimizing hundreds of Filipinos seeking jobs abroad.
“This problem is both severe and complex. Hence there is a need for collaborative efforts between law enforcement agencies, non-governmental organizations, intelligence units, and the private sector,” he added.
The efforts align with the recent Notice issued by INTERPOL, highlighting the escalating threat posed by large-scale human trafficking, where victims are duped into committing crimes within pseudo-call centers.
As early as last year, Philippine immigration authorities have closely monitored this modus, which INTERPOL said has transformed from a regional crime phenomenon to a global threat.
Victims are usually enticed through job advertisements online, only to find themselves trapped in online scam centers where they are forced to engage in criminal activities.
The INTERPOL notice describes the scheme as double-edged in nature, as it victimizes both the trafficked individuals and a second set of victims targeted by online fraud. The trafficked victims endure forced labor, extortion, physical and sexual exploitation, and even organ harvesting.
Simultaneously, the online scam centers perpetrate various fraudulent activities, such as investment scams, romance scams, and cryptocurrency-related fraud.
Since last year, BI has raised its alarm over the said scheme as young urban professionals continue to be recruited.
A victim repatriated last June 3 from Bangkok recounted his experience with the recruiters.
The male victim, 26 years old, arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 on board a Philippine airlines flight.
The BI reported that he left late in May in the guise of being a tourist. Upon repatriation, he admitted that he was recruited to work in Thailand through an ad he saw on Facebook and was contacted on Telegram by a Chinese national. He stated that he was offered a salary of P40,000 a month, and was assisted by an airport personnel during his departure.
After arriving in Thailand, he was transferred to Laos without his consent, which made him seek assistance from the Philippine Embassy.
“This is something we see almost every day. Professionals coming from good backgrounds being victimized by this huge syndicate. We have sounded the alarm on this since last year, and INTERPOL has already acknowledged that this is a major concern. Aspiring overseas workers should be wary of job offers received online, and only go through legal means to work abroad,” he added.