Bureau of Immigration urged to refund flight expenses amid offloading, missed flights

March 17, 2023 - 6:33 PM
Photo showing an immigration clearance lane at the airport from the Bureau of Immigration. (Photo from Bureau of Immigration's Facebook page)

Some Filipinos online called on the Bureau of Immigration (BI) to be accountable and refund flights following its apology to a female traveler whose video about the immigration process went viral.

Filipina traveler, Cham Tanteras, a freelancer in Siargao, in the viral video recalled that she missed her previous flight to Israel due to a lengthy interview with an immigration officer (IO).

She said that the officer asked perceived irrelevant questions about her travel as well as documents. These include her yearbook and graduation photo.

Tanteras posted this video on TikTok. It soon circulated across platforms and got picked up by GMA News.

The incident then triggered widespread criticisms against the BI’s interview process.

READ: ‘Power tripping?’: Pinay traveler misses flight due to lengthy immigration interview

On Thursday, March 16, the BI apologized to Tanteras and other travelers in a statement.

“We apologize for the inconvenience this may have caused the Filipina passenger and other Filipino passengers,” it said.

The bureau also said that it has already conducted a probe into the incident. The immigration officer involved was also asked for a full report.

In its statement, the BI also asked for consideration and understanding because the agency is “constrained” in the task to combat human trafficking.

“The BI is but one of the numerous agencies of the government tasked to combat trafficking. The BI seeks consideration and understanding as the agency is constrained to implement strict measures to assess departing passengers,” the bureau said.

“The management has likewise reminded its personnel to conduct their inspections professionally, and in an efficient manner, to prevent future similar incidents from occurring,” it added.

In the comments section, however, some Filipinos argued that the BI should also be held accountable for passengers who were offloaded and missed their flights.

“Dapat sagot ng Bureau of Immigration, Republic of the Philippines ang expenses kapag na offload na hindi kasalanan ng pasahero,” a Facebook user said.

“Refund the flights missed lalo na kung ang cause of delay is kayo mismo. Consideration din para sa mga Pilipinong naghahanap buhay, para kumita at makapag travel. Nalakaloka,” another Filipino said on Facebook.

Other Filipinos also criticized the BI for the alleged unprofessionalism of its personnel.

“Even if you completed and presented all the documents they need, [with] just one stamp, they could easily destroy someone’s LIFE! Terribly UNJUST! So nonsense and poor management! Hoping for a CHANGE!” one Filipino commented on Facebook.

Citing data from 2022, the BI said that it has deferred a total of 32,404 Filipinos from departure.

Of these, however, only 472 were victims of human trafficking or illegal recruitment and 873 had produced fraudulent documents.

Ten travelers, meanwhile, were found to be minors.