Arbitrary flight restrictions violates Filipino migrants rights — MIGRANTE International

Press Statement

10 April 2023

Migrante International condemns the Bureau of Immigration and the Bongbong Marcos government over recent incidents where Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) including other overseas bound Filipinos were not allowed to board their flights because of arbitrary restrictions imposed by immigration officers. 

>> March 20, Natalie Dumlao, an expatriate based in Abu Dhabi, was not allowed to board her flight to Hongkong despite carrying all the required documents. The immigration officer told her she had to cancel her UAE residence visa first before going to Hongkong. There is no such rule.
>> In March, a Filipino who was going on a tourist visa to Dubai and visit his sister, was offloaded twice despite carrying the required documents.
>> In March, a Filipina bound to Israel was asked many unreasonable questions and to present her 10-year graduation yearbook.
>> These are just some of the publicized cases.

These incidents clearly show the arbitrary imposition of flight restrictions on OFWs who are about to depart the country. These restrictions violate OFWs’ right to travel and work abroad and are openings for bribery and corruption. This is no way to treat the country’s supposed “new heroes” or bagong bayani, the lifesavers of the country’s economy.

These arbitrary restrictions do not show that the BI and the Marcos government are serious in fighting human trafficking. On the contrary, these actions show that they are a failure in this area.

If the goal is to combat, even stop, human trafficking, the BI and the Marcos government can do many things — and not violate OFWs’ rights. They can increase their information and education efforts against human trafficking among prospective migrants and the public. They can look for and punish human traffickers, and not the suspected victims. 

Most important of all, if the Marcos government wants to show that it is serious in fighting human trafficking, it should create decent jobs in the Philippines. So far, it is an utter failure in this respect, as unemployment continues to increase and no palpable efforts are seen with regard to job generation efforts that are led by the government. 

Judging by the reaction on social media, OFWs and all Filipinos are not impressed by these actions. Migrant-receiving countries and the international community have no reason to be impressed, either. The BI and the Marcos government are showing arbitrariness in rules affecting ordinary Filipinos that are bringing much-needed remittances to the country. 

OFWs, migrant Filipinos and many Filipinos can attest: while many immigration officers are doing their jobs well, the Philippines has some of the most disrespectful, if not outright rude, immigration officers in the world. We blame this on the orientation given to them; they should not be playing their present role in fighting human trafficking.  

We are calling for the junking of exorbitant and money-making restrictions on OFWs to travel, such as the Overseas Employment Certificate, which is just an added burden, another state exaction on OFWs.###