Church groups back ASEAN on people smuggling

Indonesian organizations want quick ratification of the regional body's human-trafficking convention
Church groups back ASEAN on people smuggling

Human-trafficking victim Lucia Dos Santos with her parents in Asu Ulin,  Belu district, East Nusa Tenggara province. The 23-year-old mother of three is blind after being tortured by her employer while working as a maid in Malaysia from 2006-2011. ( photo)


Church groups have joined rights activists in demanding Indonesia immediately ratify ASEAN's convention on human trafficking, which will enforce the legal process for cross-border cases.

On Oct. 4, parliament began debating ratification of the ASEAN Convention Against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (ACTIP). The convention was adopted in November 2015 at the 27th ASEAN summit in Kuala Lumpur and came into force in March this year.

The convention addresses ASEAN's need for common standards and approaches in dealing with people-trafficking criminal offenses, investigations and prosecutions, and, the treatment of trafficked victims.

Of ASEAN's 10 member states, only Indonesia and Brunei have not ratified it.

"There's no reason for parliament to not ratify the convention as human-trafficking cases have been massive," said Father Paulus Rahmat, director of Vivat International for Indonesia, a church organization which helps human-trafficking victims.

He said in East Nusa Tenggara, which has been ranked by NGOs in recent years as the worst province for human smuggling, there was an emergency situation.

Father Rahmat said almost every day there are deaths of people trafficked from the Christian-majority province to work overseas. Many of the victims are female workers sent to Malaysia.

"Some of them are victims of human trafficking, but as the perpetrators are in other countries, they cannot be pursued," he told

Wahyu Susilo, executive director of Migrant CARE, a Jakarta-based NGO that advocates for the rights of Indonesian migrant workers and their families, said ratification would complement the country's anti-trafficking law which is currently limited to domestic cases.

However, he said that the ratification must be followed up with concrete steps to the implementation of the convention's recommendations.

Adhigama Budiman, a researcher at the Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR), said human-trafficking investigations and prosecutions are complex and lengthy because they often involve people from different jurisdictions. "With this ratification, the process will be faster," he said.

Gabriel Sola, an anti-human-trafficking activist, said ratification would be good news for the families of migrant workers overseas.

"We've handled a number of cases involving offenders abroad, but the cases ended up unclear because we encountered obstacles when the case involved foreigners," he said.

He cited the case of Yurinda Selan, a 19-year-old migrant worker from East Nusa Tenggara, who died in Malaysia in 2016. Her corpse was returned to her family home in South Central Timor, Indonesia on July 17 bearing a number of bruises. Her family was concerned about the condition of the body especially after Malaysian authorities had said she hanged herself.

"We have difficulty processing such a case thoroughly," Sola said.

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