Trafficking in Persons Report 2017 - Country Narratives - Indonesia


The Government of Indonesia does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore, Indonesia remained on Tier 2. The government demonstrated increasing efforts by obtaining more convictions for trafficking offenses, conducting training for officials and public awareness campaigns targeted to communities at higher risk of trafficking, and creating new mechanisms to strengthen its victim identification procedures in furtherance of its 2015-2019 National Action Plan to Eradicate Trafficking in Persons. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Officials’ unfamiliarity with trafficking indicators and anti-trafficking laws impaired proactive victim identification among vulnerable populations and law enforcement efforts. Inadequate data collection, information sharing, and coordination among government agencies hampered implementation of the national anti-trafficking strategy, and blanket regional labor migration restrictions incentivized widespread emigration through illicit channels rife with trafficking vulnerabilities. Despite endemic corruption among officials that impedes anti-trafficking efforts and enables traffickers to operate with impunity, only two officials were prosecuted for trafficking offenses.


Increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict labor recruitment agencies, brokers, and corrupt public officials involved in trafficking; develop and implement procedures to identify potential victims among vulnerable groups, including returning migrant workers, persons in prostitution, and fishing vessel crew members; train marine ministry staff and labor inspectors on victim identification and referral procedures; provide anti-trafficking training for judges, prosecutors, police, and social workers; take steps to eliminate recruitment fees charged to workers by labor recruiters; proactively offer identified victims reintegration services; promote safe and legal migration with trafficking prevention measures; increase resources for the anti-trafficking taskforce and improve its coordination across ministries; establish a data collection system to track anti-trafficking efforts at all levels of law enforcement; train hospital staff and other health care providers about provisions guaranteeing government-funded care for trafficking victims; and create a national protocol that clarifies roles for prosecuting trafficking cases outside victims’ home provinces.


The government increased some law enforcement efforts. The 2007 anti-trafficking law prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes penalties of three to 15 years imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. In December, the Supreme Court issued a new regulation expanding the courts’ ability to prosecute corporations for complicity in trafficking. NGOs and officials reported corruption continues to obstruct the government’s ability to increase trafficking prosecutions, including against trafficking syndicate leaders. Corrupt officials reportedly continued to facilitate the issuance of false documents, accept bribes to allow brokers to transport undocumented migrants across borders, protect venues where sex trafficking occurs, practice weak oversight of recruitment agencies, and thwart law enforcement and judicial processes to hold traffickers accountable. Despite these trends, the government initiated prosecutions against only two low-level officials for complicity in trafficking offenses.

In June 2016, the government issued a regulation that aimed to improve coordination and cooperation between ministries and increase prosecutions for trafficking offenses. However, officials reported ineffective coordination among police, witnesses, prosecutors, and judges continued to hinder the government’s ability to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, especially when cases involved numerous jurisdictions or other countries. Mediation outside of court also impeded successful prosecutions, as victims were generally unwilling to participate in criminal proceedings if they or their families received financial settlements from traffickers. The Supreme Court implemented a comprehensive prosecutorial recordkeeping mechanism, but statistical discrepancies continued due to lack of coordination with law enforcement entities, whose own informal self-monitoring practices remained underdeveloped, and due to the decentralized nature of Indonesia’s court system. This dynamic, along with incomplete knowledge of the anti-trafficking law and its scope among law enforcement and judicial authorities, impaired the determination of the total number of anti-trafficking investigations, prosecutions, and convictions.

The anti-trafficking unit of the Indonesian national police reported 110 new trafficking investigations during 2016—a decrease from 221 reported the previous year, though figures from 2015 may have included forced marriage or organ trafficking cases. The Supreme Court reported 256 convictions, compared to 119 the previous year; convictions included sentences up to seven years. The police reported referring 46 cases to prosecution, compared with 66 in 2015; the perpetrators in at least 30 of the 46 cases were convicted. The other 16 cases are still being deliberated in the courts. In December, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) conducted training for 25 investigators and prosecutors in three key provinces on the 2007 anti-trafficking law. Still, a lack of familiarity with the anti-trafficking law led some prosecutors and judges throughout the country to decline cases or use other laws to prosecute traffickers. During the reporting period, the police investigated a high-profile trafficking case involving a migrant worker from East Nusa Tunggara (NTT) who had committed suicide in Kuala Lumpur. The president instructed the police anti-trafficking unit and local authorities to conduct a joint investigation of trafficking syndicates operating in NTT, where they succeeded in arresting 16 suspects—recruiters, travel document forgers, and airport ground handlers all connected to seven previously unknown trafficking syndicates—throughout Indonesia. Among the arrestees were two immigration officers suspected of complicity in trafficking; their prosecutions were ongoing at the end of the reporting period. In a separate case, a suspect arrested for operating an online prostitution business was convicted under the anti-trafficking law and sentenced to four years in prison, along with a fine of 120 million rupiah ($8,969). During the reporting period, authorities continued to investigate five of the companies involved in subjecting hundreds of Burmese fishermen to forced labor on fishing boats in Ambon in 2015. The government convicted a child sex tourist from Australia and sentenced him to 15 years in jail under the Child Protection Law.


The government maintained protection efforts. Officials did not collect comprehensive data on victims identified, but disparate government entities sometimes reported their own statistics. In 2016, the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and Child Protection (MoWECP) reported partnering with a communications company to collate open source information on 943 trafficking victims featured in 65 print, online, and broadcast media sources as an attempt to broaden victim identification methods. Separately, the Commission for the Protection of Children officially identified 307 child trafficking victims. However, it was unclear if either of these processes led to investigations or the provision of victim protective services. The government’s overseas crisis center complaint system received 4,761 complaints from workers placed overseas, including 56 confirmed trafficking cases and 1,928 cases with trafficking indicators. Although the government reportedly initiated investigations based on these complaints, figures were unavailable. The government body managing this complaint system also led an interagency effort to establish five integrated one-stop service centers to assist and educate Indonesians aiming to travel abroad for work and those returning from overseas. One of the service centers reported assisting 4,500 deportees with safe migration education, renewal of passports, working visas, and reintegration services. An international organization partnered with the government to identify and provide services to 336 Indonesian and foreign trafficking victims, including 159 individuals subjected to trafficking in the fishing industry. The MFA also assisted 478 Indonesian trafficking victims overseas through its consulates and embassies—an increase from 413 in the previous reporting period. In 2016, the MFA repatriated 13,714 Indonesian nationals, and foreign governments deported 27,855, compared to 9,039 repatriations and 85,490 deportations in 2015. The MFA screened for and positively identified 602 Indonesian trafficking victims among these two figures, comparted to 541 in 2015, and directly assisted in the repatriation of 460 of them, compared to 306 in 2015. It secured a total of $240,398 in restitution for these victims, provided them with short-term shelter and other services upon return, and referred them to local government entities for further care.

While the government had standard operating procedures for proactive victim identification, it did not consistently employ them, nor did it follow positive identification with investigative or protective procedures in a majority of cases. It continued to rely on international organizations and NGOs to identify victims, especially foreign victims in Indonesia, and to supplement the protective services it funded. Although the government ratified the ILO Maritime Labor Convention in September and established a fishing vessel victim screening protocol in 2015, it did not uniformly adhere to either mechanism during the reporting period. The government continued to work with NGOs to identify trafficking victims among the crews of ships grounded or destroyed as part of the 2014 moratorium on illegal fishing vessels, but figures were unavailable at the end of the reporting period.

The government initiated new mechanisms to facilitate improved victim protection services throughout the reporting period, but it was unclear how often it used these mechanisms. In January, the MFA collaborated with industry and civil society, including migrant worker advocacy groups, to launch a mobile application that provided safe travel tips, a social media platform, and a panic button in case of emergencies for Indonesian citizens traveling abroad. The application connects users to the MFA’s hotline and the closest Indonesian overseas embassies and consulates. In April, the MFA established a taskforce to encourage undocumented and overstay Indonesian migrant workers to request repatriation. The Ministry of Home Affairs also issued formal instructions to allocate funding for district-level anti-trafficking taskforces to facilitate victim repatriation. For the fourth year in a row, a draft law on the protection of domestic workers in Indonesia stalled in the national legislature. An international organization reported trafficking victims were often unaware of government reintegration services, and follow-up services for victims who had departed shelters remained insufficient. The Ministry of Health was responsible for paying victims’ health care, which national police hospitals were obligated to provide free of charge; NGOs and government officials reported some hospital staff were unaware of this duty or unwilling to provide care without compensation.

During the reporting period, the government’s witness protection unit provided legal assistance to at least 165 trafficking victims, compared to 88 in 2015. Since multiple agencies provided legal assistance with varying degrees of adherence to recordkeeping protocols, the total number who received such aid is unknown. The law allows victims to obtain restitution from their traffickers, and most of the victims involved in 152 cases received compensation during the year. There were no reports that the government punished victims for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking, but inadequate efforts to screen vulnerable groups for trafficking indicators, including during raids to arrest persons in prostitution or combat illegal fishing, may have resulted in the punishment or deportation of unidentified trafficking victims. The government did not provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution.


The government increased efforts to prevent trafficking. Most prevention efforts occurred at the district and provincial levels; taskforce funding and activities varied greatly across regions. During the reporting period, the National Anti-trafficking Taskforce, housed within MoWECP, drafted and circulated localized trafficking prevention and case management instructions for seven high-risk provinces. The taskforce met its goal of establishing provincial-level taskforces in all 34 provinces—up from 31 in 2015—and increased the number of local and district-level taskforces from 191 to 196. MoWECP also established community watch groups in 25 villages in five regencies throughout Indonesia. Insufficient funding and lack of coordination within and between local taskforces and with the national taskforce at times impeded anti-trafficking efforts. In June, the government issued new regulations to improve coordination between ministries to prevent trafficking in furtherance of its national action plan, and in August promulgated a seven-ministry MOU on preventing the trafficking of Indonesians overseas. The government unveiled new policies and mechanisms aimed at preventing trafficking in the fishing industry, including two formal regulations on human rights certifications for fishing companies and a fishing industry training academy featuring trafficking-specific curriculum materials. The government also engaged in income-generating, awareness-raising, and capacity building activities targeted to communities at higher risk of trafficking, including in economically challenged rural and border regions. The Ministry of Education and Culture conducted training workshops for more than 80 education stakeholders, and the government-funded 26 NGOs in 13 provinces to implement these trainings. The MFA carried out public awareness campaigns in 19 migrant worker source regions throughout Indonesia, as well as in primary destinations, including Saudi Arabia, China, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, and Brunei. The MFA, in collaboration with six other ministries, produced and disseminated an anti-trafficking campaign video for social media users. In 2016, the president issued a policy directive barring Indonesian women from working as maids in Malaysia beginning in 2017. The government continued its moratorium on permits for Indonesians to seek domestic work in 21 countries in the Middle East, and it expanded the ban to include Malaysia. According to NGOs, the ban had the unintended consequence of incentivizing an increase in Indonesian labor migration to these regions through illicit and often dangerous recruitment and smuggling channels that could have made them more vulnerable to trafficking.

During the reporting period, the labor ministry revoked the licenses of 29 private labor recruitment agencies suspected of trafficking or other illegal practices and suspended an additional 191 agencies pending review, compared to 24 revocations and eight suspensions in 2015. These actions did not lead to criminal investigations or prosecutions, although one of the agencies was confirmed to have been directly involved in trafficking. The government made efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor and commercial sex acts, including through continued use of a system developed to track money laundering among known criminal networks—some of which are connected to sex tourism. It provided anti-trafficking training for military personnel prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions, and it conducted training on trafficking victim identification and domestic migrant worker protections for diplomatic personnel.


As reported the previous five years, Indonesia is a major source, and to a much lesser extent, destination and transit country for women, men, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Each of its 34 provinces is a source and destination of trafficking. The government estimates 1.9 million of the 4.5 million Indonesians working abroad—many of whom are women—are undocumented or have overstayed their visas, increasing their vulnerability to trafficking. The actual figure is likely higher, as a significant number of migrant workers traditionally circumvent government overseas placement and permitting requirements, often at the instigation of traffickers. A significant number of Indonesians are exploited in forced labor and debt bondage in Asia and the Middle East, primarily in domestic service, factories, construction, and manufacturing, on Malaysian palm oil plantations, and on fishing vessels throughout the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Malaysia remains the top destination for Indonesian migrant workers; the government estimates more than one million of the 1.9 million Indonesian workers in irregular status are in Malaysia. Undocumented workers are at greater risk for trafficking. During the reporting period, Indonesian victims were also identified in the Pacific Islands, Africa, Europe, and North America (including the United States). Indonesian women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking primarily in Malaysia, Taiwan, and the Middle East.

There were extensive reports of Indonesian fisherman in forced labor on Chinese and Taiwanese trawlers in 2016. Many of these vessels belong to Thai parent companies operating under the auspices of Thai-Indonesian shell companies, and utilized double-flagging and other illicit methods to contravene interception by the Indonesian authorities—a byproduct of the government’s 2014 moratorium on foreign fishing vessels. Taiwanese companies work with dozens of recruitment agencies in Burma, Indonesia, and Thailand to hire fisherman, assign them fake Thai identity and labor permit documents, and force them to fish long hours in Indonesian waters for low or unpaid salaries while incurring severe physical abuse, including in the waters surrounding Benjina and Ambon. The shell companies prohibit the fishermen from leaving their vessels and reporting these abuses by threatening to expose their fake identities to the authorities or by detaining them on land in makeshift prisons. Reports continued of Indonesian fishermen subjected to labor trafficking on board South Korean fishing vessels in non-Indonesian waters, where similar practices of coercion and deprivation are not uncommon.

NGOs estimate labor recruiters are responsible for more than half of Indonesian female trafficking cases overseas. The government and NGOs note that, as awareness of trafficking increases, traffickers are recruiting more victims from eastern Indonesian provinces with lower general awareness of the crime. Migrant workers often accumulate significant debt from both Indonesian and overseas labor recruitment outfits, making them vulnerable to debt bondage. Some companies use debt bondage, withholding of documents, and threats of violence to keep migrants in forced labor. Endemic corruption among government officials facilitates practices that contribute to trafficking vulnerabilities in the travel, hospitality, and labor recruitment industries.

In Indonesia, women, men, and children are exploited in forced labor in fishing, fish processing, and construction; on plantations, including palm oil; and in mining and manufacturing. Many women and girls are exploited in domestic servitude and sex trafficking. Victims are often recruited with offers of jobs in restaurants, factories, or domestic service, but are subjected to sex trafficking. Debt bondage is particularly prevalent among sex trafficking victims. Women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking near mining operations in Maluku, Papua, and Jami provinces. Child sex tourism is prevalent in the Riau Islands bordering Singapore, and Bali is a destination for Indonesians traveling to engage in child sex tourism.