Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 in Manila, where the group was stopped. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Thirty Filipinos bound for Dubai were barred from leaving Manila after it was discovered they planned to stay in the Gulf country to work.

Bureau of Immigration (BI) officials stopped 18 women and 12 men on Friday at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, where claimed they were heading to Dubai to visit family members. However, during questioning, 29 of them admitted they would be working in Dubai as waiters in various hotels, The Filipino Times reported.

BI Port Operations Division chief Grifton Medina said their travel documents were only given to them by their handler, who met them outside the airport, on the day they were scheduled to fly to Dubai. “All of them initially claimed they were going to visit a friend or relative in Dubai for a vacation and presented as proof their tourist visas and return tickets,” Medina said.

Medina said there were inconsistencies in their statements, which prompted immigration officers to investigate. According to BI-Travel Control and Enforcement Unit chief Erwin Ortañez, one of the Filipinos was bound for Baghdad to work as a kitchen supervisor and presented a fake visa. Ortañez said only one of them had a valid tourist visa issued by the UAE Ministry of Interior.

BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said the apprehension of the passengers was a big leap in their campaign against human trafficking. “As a result of this incident, we were able to rescue our compatriots from the risk of being abused and exploited abroad, which they are prone to suffer due to their status as undocumented workers,” Morente said.

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