After arresting four suspects in June, Indonesian authorities are hunting for additional members of a suspected human-trafficking ring that allegedly sent at least a dozen women and girls to China, a police official said Thursday.
Brig. Gen. Dedi Prasetyo, spokesman of the national police, said the four people, including a Chinese national, were arrested in June after a woman escaped from an apartment building in Jakarta where victims were kept before being flown to China.
“We are tracking down this ring, including how long they have been operating and where their victims are,” he told BenarNews.
The woman told investigators she was subjected to violence by people who abducted her, Dedi said.
The suspects told investigators they had lured 12 women by offering them jobs as waitresses and shop attendants in China. After arriving, the women were “sold to Chinese men for sham marriages,” Dedi said.
Police continue to search for other members of the syndicate, Dedi said.
“We are trying to find out who helped them, including those who helped lure the families of the women into allowing them to travel to China,” he said. “Some of the victims are underage.”
Indonesian police are working with Interpol, Chinese police and the Chinese Embassy in Jakarta, as well as the International Organization for Migration to track down the other women who are believed to be in China.
“We have received information some of them have escaped, but we have not received details on where they are now. We hope they can report to the Indonesian Embassy,” Dedi said.
The Agency for the Placement and Protection of Indonesian Workers (BNP2TKI) urged Indonesians to be cautious about job offers.
“Don’t be fooled by offers of big salaries. Those who want to work overseas have to have skills and necessary documents,” BNP2TKI chairman Nusron Wahid told BenarNews.
Police arrested five people last week who allegedly trafficked a 16-year-old girl from West Java to Malaysia. The suspects could face 15 years in prison if found guilty of human trafficking.
The girl was lured by a Facebook post that promised a job in Malaysia with a salary of 7 million rupiah (U.S. $473) per month. Once she arrived, she was forced to work long hours and was not given food by her employer, investigators said.
Malaysia, a Muslim-majority nation of more than 32 million people, relies heavily on foreign domestic helpers from neighboring countries, such as Indonesia.
Meanwhile, police in Aceh province last week rescued two women, ages 24 and 20, and arrested a woman suspected of being involved in a ring that sent women to Malaysia to become sex workers.
At least 101 human-trafficking cases involving 1,417 victims, mostly women, have been reported to police since 2011. Since then, more than 170 people have been arrested on charges of labor trafficking, sex trafficking and organ harvesting, according to police records.
“The human trafficking networks do not necessarily link to each other. Some are related, they know each other, but some are not,” said Panca Putra, deputy director of the national police General Criminal Investigation division.
Since last year, the government delayed issuing more than 10,600 passports for people suspected of planning to work illegally overseas or were victims of trafficking, according to Zaeroji, director of immigration enforcement and monitoring at the Law and Human Rights Ministry.
“We hope that in the future the system will be connected online to the Population and Civil Registry Office so we can verify immediately if information in passport applications is true or not,” said Zaeroji, who like many Indonesians uses one name.