127 returning Hajj pilgrims posing as Pinoys intercepted at Naia
A total of 127 foreign nationals pretending to be Filipinos have been intercepted by the Bureau of Immigration (BI) at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) who returned from the Hajj pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.
Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said intercepted are 106 Indonesians, 15 Malaysians, and 6 of still doubtful nationalities.
He said they left the country for the Hajj in Saudi Arabia disguised as Filipinos.
Morente said the returning foreign pilgrims were discovered as a result of Oplan Janus, an inter-agency project that was initiated following the apprehension last August of 177 Indonesians who attempted to leave Naia with genuine Philippine passports.
Authorities later uncovered the operations of a syndicate that sells the Philippine passports to interested foreigners at a hefty price so the latter could join the pilgrimage using the Hajj quotas reserved by the Saudi government for Filipinos.
According to Morente, BI operatives started monitoring the return of the Muslim pilgrims last month when the Hajj pilgrimage ended and that many of the foreigners intercepted returned in droves at the Naia in the last week of September and first week of October.
Morente also disclosed that authorities have taken into custody 12 sheikhs who accompanied some of the foreign pilgrims in their trip to Manila for investigation on their possible involvement in the racket.
The foreign nationals were turned over to the custody of their embassy in Manila for the issuance of their travel documents and return to their homeland. The Malaysians, on the other hand, are in the Bureau’s facility in Bicutan. JE
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