Law amended to deter people smuggling

Muninggar Sri Saraswati
23 August 2004
The Jakarta Post

The government has submitted to the House of Representatives a bill on amendments to Law No. 9/1992 on immigration, which would criminalize human trafficking.

The bill says anyone who is found guilty of human trafficking -- into or out of the country -- for profit, could face between four and 15 years in prison, or fines amounting to between Rp 500 million (US$54,171) and Rp 1 billion.

Prison terms and fines could also be imposed on illegal migrants who enter Indonesia en route to a third country, including boat people. If found guilty, they could face up to three years in prison or a fine of up to Rp 500 million.

The bill says illegally staying in the country or visa forgery carry punishments of up to five years imprisonment, or a maximum fine of Rp 750 million, while visa violations are punishable with up to one year in prison or a Rp 250 million fine.

Indonesian citizens who facilitate visa forgery, provide shelter for illegal migrants or employ blacklisted foreigners could face sentences of between three months and five years in prison, or fines ranging from Rp 200 million to Rp 750 million.

Among several reasons the government cited for the amendments to the existing immigration law are the increased number of cases of human trafficking, illegal migration and the trafficking of women or children.

The law threatens illegal migrants with punishments, but cannot touch human traffickers.

Indonesian law enforcers have so far charged suspected human traffickers -- who are usually foreigners -- with visa violations, which carry a maximum punishment of six years in prison.

The police have often complained of difficulties in taking human traffickers to court.

Due to legal problems, Indonesia encountered a diplomatic row with neighbor Australia following a sea accident which left 347 Middle East migrants dead after their vessel sank in the waters near Christmas Island two years ago. The ship was heading to Australia from Lampung.

Indonesian police arrested Egyptian Mootaz Attia Mohamad Hasan alias Abu Quassey, who was held responsible for the incident, but could not charge him with human trafficking, nor extradite him to Australia, whose law criminalizes human trafficking.

Indonesia deported Quassey to his home country last year.

Australia has since asked Jakarta to eradicate human trafficking syndicates believed to have been operating throughout the archipelago.

Boat people and asylum seekers, mostly from Middle Eastern countries, favor Indonesia as a transit point on their way to Australia or the United States, taking advantage of Indonesia's vast and porous coastlines.

An estimated 3,500 illegal migrants are stranded in Indonesia, on their way to Australia.

The House will soon begin deliberating the bill, which was prepared by the government two years ago. Lawmakers expect to endorse it before they complete their five-year terms at the end of September.


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