MANILA, Philippines - Filipino tourists suspected of traveling to other countries to work would be made to sign a waiver excluding the Bureau of Immigration (BI) from any blame for whatever risks or dangers they encounter in their destination country.
Immigration commissioner Marcelino Libanan told GMANews.TV on Monday that while the waiver would not take away the bureau’s responsibility on overseas Filipino workers (OFW), this "last line of defense" would clear them of any negligence in performing their duties.
“They are willing victims," Libanan said referring to Filipino tourist-workers. “But it doesn’t mean that the government won’t help."
Prior to signing the waiver, suspected Filipino tourist-workers would undergo a five-minute briefing in their port of exit, apprising them of their rights as well as reminding them of the hazards involved in their endeavor.
Filipino tourist-workers are often lured by illegal recruitment syndicates to enter visa-free Southeast Asian countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia, Brunei and Myanmar. In the absence of proper labor documents, these OFWs are coerced into exploitative jobs including forced labor and prostitution.
“One better way to solve the problem of trafficking…is the education of potential victims," Libanan said.
“We are hoping this briefing and waiver tack will discourage tourist-workers from taking unnecessary risks overseas," he added.
According to Libanan, they have arrested three big human-trafficking syndicates – two Malaysian-operated and one Singaporean - this year. Immigration officers have also barred 864 passengers from leaving the country on suspicion of being tourist-workers.
“Most of them presented bogus documents such as fake letters of invitation or affidavits of support from alleged friends and relatives in the countries where they intended to go and work," said Romeo Dime, BI’s regional director.
Libanan said Immigration officers posted in various airports in the country are keeping an eye on Filipino travelers who are:
- Leaving without a tour group;
- Traveling without hotel bookings;
- Going overseas without a return ticket
- Touring without sufficient funds; and
- Those who are frequently traveling to a particular country without a clear purpose other than to ‘visit’ it as a tourist.
According to the Visayan Forum (http://www.visayanforum.org), a non-government organization of marginalized migrants like domestic workers, and trafficked women and children, most smuggled Filipinos come from poor families in Mindanao and Visayas.
Citing data from their joint research with the UNICEF, a majority of trafficked women and children come from Davao, followed by Zamboanga province, Dumaguete, Cebu and Sultan Kudarat.
“While poverty, lack of work opportunities, the desire to help parents, and discontinued education are the most commonly cited reasons for entry to domestic work, young girls are also attracted by the simple methods of recruitment, ‘One doesn't need to have higher skills, nor is required to submit report cards, bio-data, etc. to be hired immediately,’" the group said. - GMANews.TV