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Philippines deports 165 Chinese nationals from Bamban POGO hub

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines said Wednesday it had deported 165 Chinese citizens it accused of working in an online scam center based in Bamban, Tarlac.

The group were flown to Shanghai on Tuesday and forever barred from returning to the Philippines, the immigration bureau said in a statement.

The deportees were among hundreds of employees, Filipino and foreign, rounded up by an anti-crime government task force in a raid of an office compound in the northern municipality of Bamban on March 14.

The 165 were involved in "scamming activities" and did not have proper travel documents, making them "undesirable aliens", the immigration statement said.

After the raid, the authorities said some of the workers were forced into it and "were controlled by having their passports confiscated so they were unable to leave".

The raid occurred following a tip-off from one of the Vietnamese workers who sought police help after he said escaped from the compound.

Across Southeast Asia, scam centres have mushroomed, with crime syndicates luring, kidnapping or coercing workers into predatory online activity.

The scam industry is raking in unprecedented sums, the equivalent of billions of dollars, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.

Victims have reported travelling across the region, often on the pretence of romance or high-paying jobs but finding themselves forced instead to cajole people into ploughing money into fake investment platforms and other ruses.