THE Bureau of Immigration (BI) has admitted that human trafficking syndicates continue to victimize aspiring overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) despite the government’s intensified campaign against them.
Thus, BI Commissioner Norman G. Tansingco warned not to fall prey to these syndicates pretending to offer work in several Asian countries as call center agents to Filipinos but would eventually be used as love scammers abroad.
Tansingco made the warning following the repatriation of 27 Filipinos from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on December 8 after being rescued from their traffickers.
The BI chief noted that most of these newly repatriated OFWs left the country at the end of 2022 or the first half of 2023, indicating that unscrupulous individuals have not ceased their illegal activities despite repeated warnings and reforms instituted by the Philippine government.
“We have warned about this syndicate as early as October last year,” Tansingco said. “It has been more than a year and we are still seeing victims being duped in accepting their fake offers.”
Based on the reports reaching the BI chief, 12 out of the 27 Filipino victims left the country illegally via boat from Zamboanga, evading formal immigration inspection. They allegedly traveled for 11 hours from Zamboanga to Sabah, Malaysia, before transferring to Cambodia.
On the other hand, the other victims claimed that they departed by pretending as regular tourists traveling abroad for a holiday. One of them, according to the BI, departed as a documented OFW, but was supposedly bound for Palau and not Cambodia.
During interrogation, the 27 victims said they were forced to work as love scammers, targeting old men residing in the United Kingdom.
Some of the repatriates claimed that they were abused and tortured in the workplace, and were later sold by their Chinese employers to another company.
The Cambodian police rescued the victims during their transfer after being sold to other companies and were eventually assisted by the Philippine Consulate in Phnom Penh.
“Imagine being a professional here but ended up being sold like a slave abroad. These are the real stories that we have been hearing every day, yet people continue to say yes to this,” the BI chief said.
The repatriates are now under the supervision of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, Department of Migrant Workers and the Department of Foreign Affairs after immigration clearance.