16 of 39 bodies found inside UK truck arrive in Vietnam

Robie de Guzman   •   November 27, 2019   •   767

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – The first 16 of 39 bodies found inside a refrigerated truck in England last month arrived Wednesday in Vietnam to be handed over to their families, according to airport officials.

The plane landed at 5 am local time (10 pm, Tuesday, GMT) at Hanoi’s Noi Bai Airport, more bodies are expected to arrive in the coming hours or days, as Vietnamese authorities did not reveal specific details.

According to digital newspaper VNExpress, 16 ambulances waited at the airport to transport the bodies to Nghe An, Ha Tinh and Quang Binh provinces, where the victims came from. The journey usually takes seven to 10 hours by road from Hanoi, but may take longer on this occasion due to heavy rainfall in the region in recent days.

One of the victims’ family members told EFE that police would only announce the arrival of the bodies 30 minutes in advance and had asked them to remain home until then.

The cost of repatriating the bodies falls on the families, whom the Vietnamese Government offered 30-day loans of 1,370 pounds ($1,760) last week to bring back the ashes of their loved ones and 2,208 pounds for the bodies to return in coffins.

Apart from the government initiative, a crowdfunding campaign through the Gofundme portal has raised $27,415, and private entities have also made contributions, such as a 620 million dong ($26,714) donation by Vingroup, the country’s largest business conglomerate.

This financial aid offers great relief to these families, who face debts of thousands of dollars required to pay networks that facilitate illegal migration to the UK.

According to Mimi Vu, an expert on people smuggling and human trafficking, Vietnamese migrants pay up to $50,000 to reach Europe – an amount almost always borrowed.

British police have arrested seven people in connection with this case, while Vietnamese authorities have arrested 11 from Nghe An and Ha Tinh provinces. EFE-EPA

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Hontiveros calls on the DFA to address fake passports used in human trafficking

Aileen Cerrudo   •   May 4, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—Senator Risa Hontiveros has called on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to take actions against fake passports being used in human trafficking.

During a Senate Committee hearing on Tuesday (May 4), Hontiveros said the DFA should look into illegal schemes and enterprises that tamper with or forge passports, including a modus called “baklas passport.” Under the said scheme, the trafficked individual assumes the passport details of another person.

Hontiveros revealed three accounts of Filipino Muslim girls who were victims of human trafficking. They were identified as Omaima, Aleah, and Lenlen (not her real name). During the hearing, the women attested that their passports were fabricated to hide the fact that they were underaged.

“Our witness, Lenlen, went to the DFA in Cotabato to get her biometric passport in 2018. Why then did the DFA give her a fake passport?” the senator said.

One of the Filipino Muslim girls who were trafficked to Syria as minors also said that her passport was ‘baklas’ or fake.

The senator asked if there was a government official colluding with human trafficking criminals. She also called on the Foreign Affairs Department to conduct an investigation on its officials from across the country who may be facilitating the production of fake passports.

Another survivor of human trafficking in Syria said she was recruited when she was 14 years old. She said she was also a victim of verbal sexual harassment by an employee of the Philippine Embassy in Syria.

“I call on the DFA to regularly check the welfare of our women and girls abroad. We would not have known of this case, had Lenlen kept this story to herself. The DFA should be proactive in protecting our women,” Hontiveros said.

Meanwhile, pastillas scheme whistle blower Alex Chiong confirmed that corrupt Bureau of Immigration (BI) officers have a Viber group chat that displays the list of names of women to be trafficked out of the country. The list may include underage girls with fraudulent passports.

According to the BI, the immigration officer who stamped the passport of 2018 survivor Lenlen in the list of individuals, is being investigated by the agency for being part of outbound human trafficking activities.

“If we find that this is syndicated trafficking, or trafficking committed by a group of three or more persons conspiring or confederating with each other, the prescription period is 20 years.  Let’s all help finally resolve this revolting issue. Let’s do all we can for our children,” Hontiveros said. AAC

BI rescues underage OFWs from trafficking syndicate

Marje Pelayo   •   April 22, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) has warned the public against syndicates who are engaged in trafficking minors and underage females to work abroad.

BI Commissioner Jaime Morente issued the warning after officers at the international airports in Pampanga and Manila intercepted two overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) that presented falsified travel documents to appear older and be able to work abroad.

The passengers, who both hail from the Southern part of the country, were recruited to work as household helpers in Saudi Arabia.

Both were stopped from leaving by members of the BI’s travel control and enforcement unit (TCEU).

Alias “Ria” was intercepted at the Clark International Airport (CIA) last Thursday while alias “Lea” was rescued at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) on Friday.

According to Morente, the victims are suspected to have falsified their birthdates to make it appear they meet the age requirements for domestic helpers eligible to work in Saudi Arabia apart from inconsistencies in the answers during interrogation particularly their age.

Both victims were later turned over to the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) for assistance in filing of complaints against their recruiters.

BI warns of illegal recruitment scheme victimizing former Overseas Filipino Workers

Marje Pelayo   •   April 12, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) is warning illegal recruiters taking advantage of former overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) amid the current employment crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This was after members of the BI Travel Control and Enforcement Unit (TCEU) at the Clark International Airport intercepted the departure of an illegal recruitment victim bound for Dubai last April 5, 2021.

The victim, whose name was not divulged following human trafficking and illegal recruitment laws, attempted to depart for Dubai via an Emirates Airlines flight.

The victim presented an overseas employment certificate (OEC) being a Balik Manggagawa, but upon checking of his documents, Immigration Officer Vanessa Icban noticed some inconsistencies and referred the matter to members of BI’s TCEU for further inspection.

Upon further checking, TCEU officer Tomas David and Vincent Serrano noted that the victim arrived in the country in 2019, and possessed a Dubai work visa.

However, after verification, it was found that his work visa has already been cancelled, and he has an active tourist visa.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente commended the efforts of the Clark immigration officers in intercepting said victim.

“I know it is a challenge to intercept such cases as they are presenting complete documents and are in the guise of being legitimate OFWs,” said Morente.

“We commend the quick eye of our immigration officers, which allowed them to uncover this modus,” he added.

In the said scheme, former OFWs whose visas and contracts have expired are given new tourist visas which allow them to depart and work illegally as tourists, using their old OEC records.

“This is an obvious circumvention of the law, and victims are promised that they can depart using their old OECs that are, in fact, invalid already,” the BI Chief said.

“Victims end up working for a different employer, or worse, fly off to a third country like Iraq or Syria,” he added.

The victim was turned over to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration Labor Assistance Center Pampanga for assistance.

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