Immigration: 9 trafficking victims rescued in Thailand, Malaysia repatriated

Travelers line up at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) on December 20, 2022.
STAR/Ernie Penaredondo

MANILA, Philippines — The Bureau of Immigration on Thursday said nine human trafficking victims have been rescued from Malaysia and Thailand, and repatriated to the Philippines.

The bureau said the two batches of repatriated workers arrived in Manila from Malaysia on May 9 and from Thailand on May 11.

The six who were rescued from Bangkok supposedly left the country in the last quarter of 2022 as tourists, and were promised customer service jobs with a salary range of P40,000 to P60,000.

Immigration Commissioner Norman Tansingco said in a statement that the victims brought home from Thailand, “like other cases of human trafficking in the Southeast Asia region,” were also brought to Mae Sot City in Thailand “to be forced to work in online love scams and crypto rings.”

READ: Hontiveros bares fake job ads, trafficking of Pinoys to Myanmar for crypto scam

“The victims recounted how they had to endure physical torture for not meeting their quota. They were detained until they could pay ransom for their release,” the BI said.

They also said they met their recruiter on Facebook.

The immigration bureau has started conducting lengthy screening process on travelers as it noted a rise in the number of young professionals being deceived by cryptocurrency scams abroad that advertise false promises of high salaries. 

Scammers behind these false job advertisements have reportedly transported young Filipino professionals to Myanmar and other Asian countries and forced them to work under abuse.

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Sex trafficking in Malaysia

Meanwhile, three other victims from Malaysia left the country via boat through Zamboanga and Tawi-Tawi.

They also left the country in the last quarter of 2022 to work as massage therapists in Miri, Malaysia, but they were instead forced to engage in sex work in spa parlors.

The victims had said they were sent to work every day and were only allowed rest days during their monthly period.

When they were rescued by Malaysian authorities, the victims “alleged that they were forced to clean restrooms at a police station where they were also verbally abused,” BI said.

The victims eventually reached the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur that assisted in their repatriation.

Upon their arrival in Manila, they told authorities that they were recruited by “Cherry,” “Juvy” and “Lorena”, who processed their departure to evade inspection in Mindanao ports.

Tansingco reiterated the bureau’s warning to the public to not fall prey to human trafficking schemes.

"Securing documents to work abroad might be tedious, but it also protects aspiring overseas Filipino workers against illegal recruitment and other hazards abroad," he said. — Kristine Joy Patag

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