PETALING JAYA, Jan 10 — An international human trafficking network has been found not only supplying Malaysia with illegal Indonesian workers but also using the country as a gateway point to the Middle East where they are made into forced labour.
Commander General Ari Dono Sukmanto who heads the Indonesian national police criminal investigation unit said a total of 1,083 Indonesians, including five children, were rescued from the network that Indonesian police crippled last year, The Bangkok Post reported yesterday.
“They were bound for the Middle East such as United Arab Emirates and Syria while another 39, who had been promised work as domestic helpers in Saudi Arabia were repatriated from Kuala Lumpur in May after they were abandoned by their recruiter.
“They were stranded in Kuala Lumpur airport for two days until our embassy picked them up and it turned out they were going to Saudi Arabia using a pilgrimage visa instead of working visa,” Ari Dono was quoted saying.
According to the news report, at least 60 per cent of human trafficking victims from Indonesia travelled via Malaysia into Saudi Arabia using pilgrimage visas instead of work visas last year.
Ari Domo said traffickers travelled via Malaysia because a 2015 Indonesian moratorium on sending migrant workers to Saudi Arabia and 20 other Middle Eastern countries was still in place.
“It is common for Indonesians to use pilgrimage visas to travel to Saudi Arabia to look for work so the recruiters made them detour via Malaysia to make the workers’ trip look less suspicious,” he was quoted saying further.
Wahyu Susilo, the director of the advocacy group Migrant Care said the cases highlighted how vulnerable the country’s migrant workers were to rights violations and how ineffective the moratorium was as the flow continued.
“In January and February 2017, we received a report that there were about 300 female workers from West Nusa Tenggara who were kept in confinement in Riyadh after they were sent there when the moratorium was still in place.
“However it only triggered an opportunity for trafficking syndicates, apart from violating citizens’ rights to move freely to work, given the high demand from destination countries and the high supply of Indonesians willing to migrate for better jobs abroad,” he was quoted saying.
Susilo said as long as the kafalah system — a visa sponsorship that ties migrant workers’ legal residency to the location of their employers remained — the Middle East would remain an unwelcoming destination for migrant workers.
“The government has to respond to this by negotiating for bilateral agreements and demanding the destination countries in the Middle East to enforce better protection for migrant workers and abolish the system.”
In the same news report, the Saudi ambassador to Indonesia Osama Mohammed Al-Shuaibi said he hoped Jakarta would soon lift the moratorium against its citizens.