BI stops Filipinos bound for Holy Land over fake pilgrimage
MANILA, Philippines — The Bureau of Immigration (BI) said it stopped six Filipinos who pretended to be pilgrims from leaving the country for Amman, Jordan.
BI Commissioner Norman Tansingco said the Immigration Protection and Border Enforcement Section (I-PROBES) at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport decided to prevent the six individuals from leaving on Thursday because they were oblivious to their travel plans in the Holy Land.
“They all claimed to be traveling together for a pilgrimage but they were unaware of their travel itinerary. They are also not known to each other,” Tansingco said in a statement Friday.
He further noted that two of the passengers had already been intercepted before by BI officers over numerous inconsistencies in their statements and documentation.
“Our I-PROBES found that the two passengers were supposed to join a group of 14 ‘pilgrims’ who left the country last September 27. Ten of them never returned and are now presumably working abroad,” Tansingco said.
The BI official said they later confirmed that the group was actually traveling to Jordan to seek employment.
Citing statements of the intercepted passengers, the BI said an alleged pastor arranged the trip and that each of them paid the man around P75,000 to P150,000.
The BI said the group that left in September also pointed to the same pastor as the one who arranged the supposed pilgrimage to Jordan.
Tansingco said the case was forwarded to the Inter-agency Council Against Trafficking and that the National Bureau of Investigation will investigate the scheme.
The BI recalled that in 2011, six Filipino women who posed as nuns, were intercepted at the airport. During questioning, the women told immigration officers that their recruiter instructed them to dress as nuns to avoid interrogation. The women admitted that they were promised to work as household help in Lebanon.