June 9, 2023
JAKARTA – The Lampung Police on Monday rescued 24 victims of human trafficking from a house in Bandar Lampung belonging to an officer at the National Police headquarters.
Lampung Police chief Insp. Gen. Helmy Santika said authorities were currently looking into whether the officer was involved in the crime.
“We’re investigating how the victims arrived at the house and whether the human traffickers were borrowing or renting the house,” Helmy told a press conference on Wednesday, Antara reported.
“The National Police’s internal affairs division has launched an internal probe as well to further investigate the matter,” he added.
Authorities rescued 24 women from West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) who were believed to be victims of an illicit scheme to send them to the Middle East as migrant workers.
During Monday’s operation, police also arrested four suspects identified only by their initials DW, AL, AR and IT on allegations that they had offered the women a salary of Rp 7 million (US$470) to work as domestic workers overseas.
All suspects have been charged with violating the 2007 Human Trafficking Law and the 2017 Migrant Workers Protection Law, which carry punishments of between three and 15 years in prison.
According to the Agency for the Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers (BP2MI), only 4.6 million of 9 million migrant workers currently abroad are registered and possess formal documents. The remaining 4.4 million, or 48.8 percent, are working illegally, and the agency has no accurate records of either their occupation or domicile overseas.
In April, Coordinating Political, Legal and Security Affairs Minister Mahfud MD said there was strong indication that human trafficking schemes in Batam, the Riau Islands, involved both government officials and the private sector.
Mahfud said a report from Batam stated that although the government had clear laws and regulations on the crime, human trafficking networks in the city involved local officials and private companies.
In response to the report, Mahfud said he had formed a team to eradicate human trafficking in Batam and to investigate those involved in assisting, abetting or otherwise allowing the criminal activity to continue unchecked.
Last week, the senior minister said President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo had instructed National Police chief Gen. Listyo Sigit Prabowo to take stern measures against police officers who “backed” human traffickers.
Acting on the President’s instruction, Listyo on Monday formed a task force for investigating human trafficking, headed by Insp. Gen. Asep Edi Suheri, deputy head of the National Police’s Criminal Investigation Department (Bareskrim). He also ordered every regional police force to form a similar unit.
“Officers who failed to solve human trafficking cases in their regions will face serious consequences. They will be criminally charged and removed from their positions as part of their responsibility in addressing this problem,” Listyo said in a statement, as quoted by Kompas.com.
Authorities are currently hunting for five fugitives believed to be behind the Batam schemes to send Indonesians as illegal migrant workers to Malaysia and Singapore.
The cases in Batam and Lampung have come to light amid increasing reports of people forced into working for cybercrime outfits in Southeast Asia. In May, authorities rescued around 300 Indonesians who were trafficked to several Southeast Asian countries, where they had been held hostage and forced to run online scams.
Read also: Dozens of trafficked Indonesians repatriated
During the 42nd ASEAN Summit in Labuan Bajo last month, the region’s leaders pledged to crack down on online scams operated by human traffickers that preyed on vulnerable job seekers, particularly in the poorest countries in Southeast Asia.
According to the Chairman’s Statement of the Labuan Bajo summit, ASEAN’s planned efforts to combat human trafficking include building the capacity of law enforcement to investigate, gather data, share information and conduct joint exercises.
As this year’s ASEAN chair, Indonesia has reaffirmed its commitment to eradicate human trafficking in the region.