12/03/2014, 00.00
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Kuala Lumpur repatriates 53 Indonesian migrants victims of traffickers

by Mathias Hariyadi

Police arrest a Malaysian citizen and search for accomplices in Indonesia. Potential victims - especially young women - are chosen in poor and remote villages in the archipelago. Attracted by the prospect of a job in the Middle East, they end up becoming prostitutes. Yesterday the appeal of Pope Francis against human trafficking.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) - At least 53 Indonesian citizens were repatriated from the capital of Malaysia, after being intercepted by the local police as they were ready to leave for the Middle East as "illegal migrants".

A report detailing the episode was released by the Jakarta embassy in Kuala Lumpur, denouncing a racket of unscrupulous trafficking in humans in Indonesia and Malaysia. Investigators have arrested a Malaysian citizen to question him and find out who his Indonesian accomplices are. Going by the nickname IM, he was already known to the police in Kuala Lumpur because he had been arrested in March 2013; he was charged with having kept some Indonesian migrant workers in a state of semi-slavery, but was released on bail.

According to Jakarta Police it is common practice for unscrupulous criminals to prey on the rural poor as potential victims in human trafficking. Identified as "brokers", these people focus especially on young women from remote villages, which are taken upon payment of a (small) amount of money.

According to reports from the Indonesian ambassador in Kuala Lumpur Herman Prayitno, IM is a "familiar face" in Malaysia, one of the leading figures in the "mafia" that controls the racket of modern slavery and human trafficking. The trade route, which affects mostly women, was uncovered by some Indonesian officials stationed in consulates and embassies in the Middle East, who discovered some irregularities in documents.

Already on April 9 a group of nine girls from Indonesia destined for prostitution  were repatriated after being discovered by Malaysian police. But despite these discoveries, the vast majority of victims remains enslaved and exploited in this trafficking. A phenomenon, according to experts, that continues to rise.

The latest police investigations also shows that Indonesian migrant women, who erroneously migrate to countries in the Middle East in the hope of securing a job as a domestic worker  end up as prostitutes or sex slaves. The province of Aceh and the regency of Sukabumi in West Java province, are among the centers in this trade in the lives of young women, with hundreds of cases per year and the number is constantly growing; experts point out that "only 30% of cases" of trafficking comes to the light, but the vast majority remain submerged.

Yesterday, Pope Francis, during a meeting with interreligious leaders at the Vatican, slammed the trade as "modern day slavery", defining the exploitation of the people "an abhorrent crime". The Pope's words accompanied the signing of a Declaration of Religious Leaders against Slavery, held in conjunction with the International Day for the Abolition of Slavery.


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