The department’s probe was sparked by an inquiry being held in the country’s Senate, during which politicians were told about the use of tourist visas to smuggle women from the Philippines to Dubai and thence to Syria, where they are sold for up to $10,000.
Senator Risa Hontiveros, who is in charge of the inquiry, claims immigration officials have been involved in the scheme, which sees women “locked up” in “dark and dirty” conditions before they are purchased in Damascus.
Last month, a number of women sought refuge in the Philippines embassy in Syria, after suffering “harsh working conditions.” They were returned to Manila after embassy staff secured documentation for their safe exit.
The Bureau of Immigration has agreed to cooperate with the Senate investigation and any probe into allegations of criminal behavior by its officers, with Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente declaring, “We will not hesitate to make them face the harshest penalties.”
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