The Bureau of Immigration (BI) has stopped more than 7,000 Filipinos believed to be victims of human trafficking from leaving the Philippines in the first quarter of the year.

Grifton Medina, the BI Port Operations Division Chief, said from January to March, a total of 7,11 Filipinos were deferred as they did not comply with the requirements for outbound travelers, Philippine News Agency reported.

“We have been very careful in assessing these travelers as we wanted to ensure that they will not be victimized by human traffickers and illegal recruiters,” Medina said.

Medina clarified that passengers who were previously deferred would still be allowed to leave the Philippines after complying with the requirements based on the guidelines of the Department of Justice.

“These requirements were set by the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking to ensure that our countrymen are protected from being victimized abroad,” Medina added.

Head of BI Travel and Enforcement Unit Erwin Ortañez said about 84% of the passengers came from Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, while the rest were stopped at airports of Mactan, Clark, Iloilo, Kalibo and Davao.

Ortañez said among the stopped were underage Filipinos who were caught falsifying the birth dates on their passports and some who presented fake overseas employment certificates.

“We will continue our drive to protect our countrymen from these syndicates who keep on sending workers abroad illegally, making them prone to abuse and exploitation in foreign lands,” BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said.