The Philippine government barred more than 28,000 Filipinos from leaving the country this year as part of its campaign against human trafficking.

According to Grifton Medina, port operations chief for the Bureau of Immigration, some 28,467 passengers were stopped from boarding flights after learning that they did not meet the requirements to travel overseas, Philippine News Agency reported.

Most of the passengers – 23,239 – were stopped at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, while the rest were barred at airports in Mactan, Clark, Iloilo, Kalibo and Davao.

“What we are trying to prevent here is allowing the departure of victims of human trafficking and illegal recruitment. We [at the Bureau] are considered the last line of defense inside our country to protect our people,” Medina said.

The Bureau of Immigration said Filipino migrant workers are required to secure an overseas employment certificate from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration before they leave the country for work.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said the certificate was needed to ensure that workers were protected while overseas.

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