MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) will decongest its detention center that detains foreigners suspected of crime after the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak at the Quezon City Jail.
“BI Commissioner Jaime Morente has ordered the bureau’s legal division and other concerned offices to speed up the resolution of deportation cases against foreigners presently detained at the BI Warden Facility (BIWF) in Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan,” the BI said in a statement sent to reporters on Wednesday, April 22.
According to BI’s data, the BIWF is currently detaining 418 people, but it has a capacity for only 140, making its detainees and personnel vulnerable to the quick spread of diseases, possibly even COVID-19. (READ: ‘Takot na takot kami’: While government stalls, coronavirus breaks into PH jails)
“We don’t want COVID-19 transmissions to happen in our facility,” Morente said. “We will work double time to deport aliens, especially for wards that are considered health risks,” he added.
How will it be done? Morente said that the BI is considering granting bail and release through recognizance for foreigners who cannot be deported yet due to pending court cases. This would allow them to leave jail but still be in the Philippines when they need to attend their court cases once lockdown measures are relaxed.
The BI issued a memorandum directing the bureau’s legal officers to conduct an inventory of all deportation cases and submit the appropriate recommended resolutions to the board of commissioners.
Morente also instructed the bureau’s deportation unit to expedite the implementation of all deportation orders issued by the board and secure the necessary clearances needed to facilitate their departure from the country.
The bureau has so far identified 3 pregnant women as high-risk detainees. Two were already released on bail, while one has already been deported. (READ: Coronavirus: Who is most at risk of dying?)
Prevention measures: The BIWF has been placed on lockdown and visitations have been suspended. The Philippine National Police has also been tapped to help in securing the facility.
All detainees were told to regularly take a bath, and are not allowed to enter common facilities without properly cleaning themselves in accordance with Department of Health guidelines. Facilities and vehicles entering have also been disinfected.
The BI also said it is in constant communication with embassies of the detainees.
As of Tuesday, the Philippines has recorded a total of 6,559 COVID-19 cases, including 654 recoveries and 437 deaths. The number of infections worldwide has surpassed 2.4 million, while over 170,000 people have died across 193 countries and territories. – with a report from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com