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Indonesian police arrest fugitive human trafficker

Four-year manhunt ends with capture of man held respnsible for illegally smuggling hundreds of people

Indonesian police arrest fugitive human trafficker

Malaysian rescuers carry a body retrieved from the sea during a search operation on a boat carrying Indonesian migrants capsized in Kota Tinggi, southern Malaysia, in this on July 2018 file photo. Police in Indonesia say they have arrested a notorious human trafficker who had been on the run for more than four years. (Photo by AFP)

Police in Indonesia's Christian-majority province of East Nusa Tenggara say they have arrested a notorious human trafficker following a manhunt lasting more than four years.

Siprianus Kopong, 59, was arrested on Oct. 28 in Kupang, the provincial capital, having spent years in hiding after being sentenced to four years in prison by a court in Batam in Riau Islands province in 2014.

Batam head prosecutor Dedie Tri Hariyadi said Kopong smuggled hundreds of people, mostly girls from East Nusa Tenggara, to other countries, particularly Malaysia.

Martinus Gabriel Goa Sola, director of the Advocacy Service for Justice and Peace in Indonesia, welcomed the arrest, saying it will send a strong signal to others involved in human trafficking in the region.

He said Kopong was just a cog in a bigger human trafficking syndicate. "Hopefully he will lead police to other perpetrators and their network," he said.

Kopong was an agent or recruiter who smuggled illegal migrant workers through Batam to Malaysia.

According to Sola, every year about 2,000 illegal migrants from East Nusa Tenggara are smuggled to Malaysia.

He said Kopong and other recruiters tell people that they will receive higher salaries abroad, which is often not the case. Migrants often find themselves working in the sex industry, hazardous occupations or as domestic servants where their so-called employers can easily abuse them.

Despite having already been sentenced to four years, Kopong should be made an example of, according to Maria Hingi, coordinator of the Indonesian Migrant Workers Union for East Nusa Tenggara.

"People cannot take advantage of poverty in the region to abuse other people and lure them with [false] employment promises," she said.

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According to Hingi, so far this year the bodies of about 90 migrant workers have been returned from Malaysia to the region, all of which were undocumented.

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