Church slams daily human trafficking and authorities’ complicity
by Mathias Hariyadi
Batam and Nunukan are among the most affected areas. Here women are reduced into slavery or forced to change identity before being shipped off to prostitution markets in Malaysia and Singapore. Church urges police to make an unwavering commitment to fighting this problem.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Migrant women abducted by criminal gangs, drugged and then put to work in prostitution rings under false identities, often with complicity of corrupt local officials and police officers is but one typical aspect of human trafficking in Indonesia. For this reason, the Church urges the authorities to make an unwavering commitment to fighting the problem.

The Commission for Migrant and Nomadic Pastoral Care of the Bishops’ Conference of Indonesia made the demand to the Indonesia police, following a week-long workshop held on 10-15 September on Batam Island, Riau Province (Sumatra), one of the areas most affected by the problem.

Delegates from 22 dioceses across the country, including some bishops, took place in the workshop activities.

“In 20 years this small island has become the haven for Singaporean nationals who come to have fun with Indonesian women,” said the communiqué released by the commission.

Increasingly, migrant women are recruited on the island and later shipped to prostitution markets in neighbouring Malaysia and Singapore itself.

Sister Ferdinanda, from a parish on Batam Island, said that many women are abducted in different parts of the Indonesian archipelago and held like “slaves in temporary shelters under the control of criminal gangs.”

Fr Swijo Isworo, who attended the workshop, said that the situation was really bad in Nunukan, East Kalimantan, which is close to the Malaysian border. Many migrant workers from South Sulawesi, Java and northern Sumatra come with the intention of finding a job across the border.

Unfortunately, these workers, mostly women, are exploited in the same way. They are forced to drink drugged drinks, which make them more docile and more easily controllable. They sign application forms to get foreign work permits and are given a new identity with the complicity of local authorities. Once they are out of the country they are exploited in all sorts of job.

The Bishops’ Conference has expressed its appreciation for the commitment the police has shown so far, and has asked them to continue their fight against “this immoral trade.”