Basra, Iraq. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

More than a dozen Filipinos who fell victim to human traffickers in Iraq are now safe and in the care of Philippine government officials.

In a statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs said the 13 victims were trafficked from Dubai to Iraq from July 4 to December 22 last year. One has just been released after three months inside Basra Prison, two were secured by the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad and 10 others who have been in the embassy’s custody since January.

The DFA warns Filipinos who wish to work overseas to be cautious about job opportunities being offered online, especially through Facebook, Viber or WhatsApp. It said trafficking syndicates lure victims through social media by offering non-existent high-paying jobs in places such as Dubai.

“The victims enter Dubai using tourist visas and are then made to work without pay, supposedly part of their ‘training’. Once their visas are about to expire, the victims are told to accept jobs in Iraq or pay the syndicates US$3,000 they purportedly spent for their deployment,” the department said.

People are usually trafficked through Erbil in the Kurdistan region of Iraq and then smuggled to Baghdad or Basra.

“The victims may be molested and maltreated en route to Baghdad and Basra. The unfortunate ones may suffer more maltreatment even when they have already been employed,” the statement warned.

The DFA reminded all Filipinos that a deployment ban remains in effect over Iraq and that those who enter the country without visas face imprisonment and hefty penalties if caught. Filipinos are asked to comply with pre-departure procedures implemented by Philippine immigration authorities.

“These procedures are intended to ensure the safety of Filipino travelers and prevent the occurrence of illegal recruitment, people smuggling, trafficking or internal organs and human trafficking,” the DFA said.

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