After drug arrests, immigration tightens screening of passengers from Africa
“Those who cannot satisfactorily explain their purpose in coming here shall be turned away and booked on the first available flight to their port of origin,” BI spokesperson lawyer Antonette Mangrobang said on Friday.
The move followed the arrest of several travelers from Africa who were found to be carrying illegal drugs in their luggage. The latest catch involved a Ghanaian couple who were caught carrying shabu Tuesday night after arriving from Abu Dhabi.
Under the law, an immigration officer may deny entry to a foreigner deemed likely to become a "Public Charge" (Section 29-A-5 of the Philippine Immigration Act).
According to the bureau's guidelines on the exclusion of foreigners, a public charge is one who:
1. has no means of sustainable living;
2. is primarily dependent on government benefits or programs for subsistence, and becomes a responsibility of public aid; or
3. is a ward of the state due to illness, incapacity, poverty and the like.
Mangrobang explained that immigration officers cannot open and inspect the luggage of travellers and are limited only to examining travel documents, conducting interviews, and profiling of passengers.
The inspection of the luggage of passengers is the task of customs officers, she said.
She added that a Philippine entry visa does not give foreigners the right to enter the country because their admission into the country is at the discretion of immigration officers.
African drug syndicates
In less than a month, NAIA authorities have apprehended several suspected members of African drug syndicates who were found carrying illegal drugs.
On the same day a Ghanaian couple was arrested, customs authorities checked the luggage of a pregnant Guinea national, Aisha Camara, 28, and found 2.7 kilos of shabu that she brought from Abu Dhabi.
Camara was earlier denied entry by immigration officers, who subsequently requested the customs inspection, for failing to explain her purpose in coming to Manila.
On March 3, Ugandan Josephine Balikuddembe, 54, who came from Dubai, was caught with 4.5 kilos of shabu.
Last Feb. 27, customs authorities arrested a Kenyan woman, Lina Aching Noah, who arrived from Abu Dhabi. She was said to be found carrying 9.3 kilos of shabu. - B. L. Vergara/VVP/YA, GMA News