Indonesian authorities on Wednesday deported the last group of nearly 300 Bangladeshis who were detained by police in Medan city on Sumatra island while apparently trying to cross illegally into neighboring Malaysia to work, officials said.
The final 34 people leaving for their home country from Kualanamu International Airport in Medan brought the number of Bangladeshis deported from Medan this month to 288, according to Icon Siregar, head of the immigration department in North Sumatra province.
“They all had their passports and it turns out that after we checked, they also had return tickets, so this made repatriation easier,” he told BenarNews.
Police and immigration officers rounded up the Bangladeshis in several locations in Medan on Feb. 5 and 6, officials said. Nearly 200 were found crammed in a shop house with little to eat.
Officials said the Bangladeshis entered Indonesia legally, taking advantage of visa-on-arrival facilities, through airports in Surabaya and Bali.
The first group departed from Medan on Feb. 11, Icon said. Representatives from the Bangladeshi embassy in Jakarta and the Indonesian Foreign Ministry were at the airport as they left.
Icon said that the 288 Bangladeshis were banned from entering Indonesian territory for six months
Meanwhile, officials at the Bangladesh embassy declined to comment and an email sent to the mission went unanswered.
North Sumatra police spokesman Tatan Dirsan Atmaja said no one had been charged with any crime.
“We are still investigating and still coordinating with the immigration office,” he said.
In Dhaka, the head of the migration program for BRAC, Bangladesh’s largest NGO, said he was aware that the last batch of Bangladeshis in Medan was due to return home soon, but he was not sure about how many there were.
“Some two hundred Bangladeshis have returned from Indonesia in recent days. Most of them are returning via Kuala Lumpur,” Sharful Hasan told BenarNews.
Icon said he believed the Bangladeshis had chosen Medan as a transit point before traveling by boat to Malaysia, because of the city’s proximity to the country.
“The indications are that they were transiting here, planning to go to Malaysia to work. We suspect there’s a (human trafficking) syndicate there in Malaysia,” he said.
“In Medan, of course there are facilitators. But the syndicate is in Malaysia and they work together,” he said.
Medan Legal Aid Institute director Ismail Lubis said undocumented job seekers, both Indonesians and foreigners, often used fishing boats to reach Malaysia.
“They take alternative routes from Tanjung Balai (in North Sumatra). They depart from ports built by local communities,” he told BenarNews.
“They usually leave at midnight. The boats usually take them to Port Klang or Malacca. They arrive there at night to avoid attention,” he said.
Ismail said he believed agents working illegally were responsible for holding the Bangladeshis in Medan.
“We have had experience with Indonesians from East Nusa Tenggara and Papua. There were illegal brokers in North Sumatra who send undocumented workers to Malaysia,” he said.
Jesmin Papri in Dhaka contributed to this report.