Investigators aim to expose human-trafficking ring
The Jakarta Post, Bandung | Headlines | Tue, October 01 2013, 9:07 AM
An investigation is underway into how dozens of migrants whose boat sank a few days ago had managed to illegally enter Indonesian waters as they attempted to reach Christmas Island in Australia.
The migrants, hailing from Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan and Eritrea (Africa), were allegedly assisted by Indonesians believed to be involved in a human-trafficking ring.
The boat they boarded sank at noon last Friday in waters off West Java’s Sukabumi regency. They then drifted at sea off Tegalbuleud in Sukabumi and off Agrabinta in Cianjur, West Java.
As of Monday, a joint search and rescue (SAR) team had found 64 of the migrants.
“As many as 36 of them are dead, and 28 are still alive as of today [Monday],” West Java Police spokesman Martinus Sitompul said, adding that based on accounts from the survivors, the boat was carrying at least 80 people.
All the survivors are currently staying at the Hotel Sarah in Sukabumi, as there is no immigration detention facility in West Java.
Sukabumi Immigration Office head Yayat Indiana said that of the 28 survivors, 15 were from Lebanon, five from Iraq, four from Eritrea and one from Jordan, while the rest were still being identified. All of them lacked valid documentation. “We will deport the 15 Lebanese migrants within this week,” said Yayat.
The remaining migrants will be temporarily placed at the immigration detention centers in Medan, North Sumatra, and Tanjung Pinang, Riau Islands, while the immigration office arranges various administrative matters with the migrants’ respective embassies.
Yayat said that West Java’s southern coastline, especially a number of areas in the Cianjur and Sukabumi regencies, was prone to human trafficking given its proximity to Christmas Island. The distance between the southern coast of West Java and the island is around 200 nautical miles, or 260 kilometers.
Regarding the alleged involvement of Indonesian citizens in the illegal transport of the migrants, Martinus said police were still working on it.
He added that the boat’s putative captain, believed to be Indonesian, had not been on the boat when it sunk but had allegedly fled after receiving money from the passengers. “The ship’s helm was taken over by a migrant who knew how to steer a boat,” Martinus said, adding that the police were still questioning survivors in order to uncover the suspected human-trafficking network behind the disastrous people-smuggling attempt.
Cianjur regency police chief Adj. Sr. Comr. Dedy Kusuma Bakti declined to comment further on the issue. “This is the work of a syndicate, and we wish to stamp out that syndicate, so we cannot reveal too much information,” said Dedy.
A similar incident took place in July this year, when 15 migrants were killed and 189 others were rescued after their boat sank in waters on the border of Sukabumi and Cianjur.
Police were also able to foil the attempted trafficking of 30 migrants from Myanmar, who were traveling in four minibuses from Cianjur to Bandung on Sunday.
The flow of migrant boats has been a hot political issue in Australia. Australia’s new conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott has promised immediate action to slow the stream of asylum seekers arriving by boats from Indonesia.
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