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Philippines probes trafficking of 44 women to Syria

Syrian women living in a refugee camp, fill their buckets with water in Idlib, Syria on 23 June 2017 [İsmihan Özgüven/Anadolu Agency]
Women living in a refugee camp in Syria, 23 June 2017 [İsmihan Özgüven/Anadolu Agency]

The Philippines Bureau of Immigration (BI) has opened an investigation into allegations that some of its officers were involved in the trafficking of 44 women to work in Syria, AFP reported on Wednesday.

According to the Senate of the Philippines, the women travelled on tourist visas from the Philippines to Dubai, where they had been promised work.

While in Dubai, the women were "locked up inside a dark and dirty dormitory and made to sleep on the floor," Senator Risa Hontiveros, who is spearheading the inquiry, was reported saying.

After their 30-day visas expired, AFP reported, the women were forced to go to Damascus, where they were sold to employers for as much as $10,000.

READ: Daesh: More than 300 children and 550 wives imprisoned in Iraq

"Our immigration officers seem to be sending our women into slavery," Hontiveros stated last week.

"Due to harsh working conditions," the Philippines Foreign Ministry disclosed, dozens of women fled to the Philippines Embassy in Damascus.

The Foreign Ministry has repatriated at least six of the undocumented workers after securing exit visas for them, AFP reported.

"I am disappointed and frustrated about the alleged involvement of BI personnel in these nefarious activities," immigration chief Jaime Morente told the Senate inquiry, according to a statement released on Wednesday.

Morente confirmed that at least 28 immigration officers were under investigation over their alleged involvement in trafficking women to Syria.

"As already proven in the past, we will not hesitate to make them face the harshest penalties," Morente stressed.

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Asia & AmericasMiddle EastNewsPhilippinesSyria
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