2021 Trafficking in Persons Report: Indonesia


The Government of Indonesia does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period, considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity; therefore Indonesia remained on Tier 2. These efforts included investigating, prosecuting, and convicting recruitment agents who facilitated the forced labor of Indonesians aboard Chinese-flagged fishing vessels, enacting implementing regulations to its 2017 migrant protection bill that prohibited employers from charging placement fees to migrant workers, and suspending substantially more recruitment agencies for trafficking-related practices. In addition, the government continued efforts to repatriate Indonesian trafficking victims exploited abroad and civilly recover back wages. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas. Investigations decreased for the fourth consecutive year, and prosecutions and convictions decreased for the third consecutive year. Official complicity in trafficking crimes remained a concern, although the government convicted two government officials for child trafficking offenses under its child protection laws during the reporting period. For the fifth consecutive year, the government decreased its budget allocation to the coordinating office of the national task force. Despite some action in individual cases of forced labor in fishing and of Indonesian migrant workers abroad, the government did not prioritize the staffing or funding for effective oversight of these sectors with long-standing, pervasive trafficking problems and pursued civil and administrative remedies in lieu of criminal action. The lack of robust, systematized victim identification procedures continued to hinder the identification of victims overall—particularly male victims. Coordination between the national anti-trafficking task force and its provincial and local-level counterparts was insufficient to translate central government policies into nationwide implementation. The 2007 anti-trafficking law was inconsistent with international law by requiring a demonstration of force, fraud, or coercion to constitute a child sex trafficking crime.


Increase efforts to vigorously investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers under the 2007 law, including complicit officials who ignore, facilitate, or engage in trafficking crimes. • Amend the 2007 law to remove the required demonstration of force, fraud, or coercion to constitute child sex trafficking. • Develop, finalize, disseminate, and train all relevant officials, including law enforcement, foreign affairs, marine, and labor ministry staff, on comprehensive standard operating procedures (SOPs) for proactive victim identification. • Complete implementing regulations to enforce the 2017 law on migrant worker protection. • Increase resources for and proactively offer all victims, including male victims, comprehensive services. • Allow victims in government shelters freedom of movement. • Increase efforts to effectively monitor labor recruitment agencies, including in the fishing sector, and take action against entities guilty of illegal conduct that contributes to the forced labor of migrant workers, including charging placement fees, deceptive recruitment practices, contract switching, and document forgery. • Institutionalize and regularly provide anti-trafficking training for judges, prosecutors, police, and social workers. • Develop and implement mandatory pre-departure and post-arrival orientation and training for Indonesian and migrant fishermen, respectively, in order to provide information on labor rights and safety at sea, and ensure the orientation and training costs are covered by employers. • Increase resources for the anti-trafficking task force and improve its coordination across ministries. • Strengthen coordination between central and provincial-level social affairs agencies to improve implementation of victim protection procedures. • Finalize and implement a national action plan to combat trafficking. • Establish a data collection system to track anti-trafficking efforts at all levels of law enforcement. • Lift current bans on migration to encourage migration through safe, legal channels. • Take steps to increase awareness of trafficking trends and vulnerabilities among local village leaders. • Create a national protocol that clarifies roles for prosecuting trafficking cases outside victims’ home provinces.


The government decreased law enforcement efforts. The 2007 anti-trafficking law criminalized all forms of labor trafficking and some forms of sex trafficking and prescribed penalties of three to 15 years’ imprisonment, which were sufficiently stringent and, with respect to sex trafficking, commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Inconsistent with international law, the 2007 law required a demonstration of force, fraud, or coercion to constitute a child sex trafficking offense and therefore did not criminalize all forms of child sex trafficking. However, judicial officials at the national and provincial level continued to assert the law implicitly established that force, fraud, or coercion were not required to constitute child sex trafficking, and that this therefore was not a barrier in successfully prosecuting and obtaining convictions in child sex trafficking cases.

While the Ministry of Home Affairs issued a ministerial regulation in April 2018 that mandated regional governments include anti-trafficking in their policy priorities, the central government did not have a mechanism to enforce this mandate, and it did not influence all provincial governments to consistently allocate anti-trafficking funding or implement national policies. Consequently, government agency coordination and data collection remained a challenge, and some provincial police reported their budget did not allow for interprovincial or international investigations. Officials noted ineffective coordination hindered the government’s ability to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers and collect comprehensive data on such efforts, especially when cases involved multiple jurisdictions. Different agencies investigated and prosecuted trafficking cases depending on where the case occurred: in provincial areas, provincial police investigated trafficking cases and referred them to the province’s high prosecutor; in cities, district or city police investigated trafficking cases and referred them to district prosecutors; and elsewhere, Indonesian National Police (INP) investigated trafficking cases and the attorney general’s office (AGO) prosecuted. During the reporting period, INP’s Criminal Investigative Division (CID) in Jakarta, responsible for investigating cases that cross multiple local jurisdictions, received 373 million Indonesian Rupiah (IDR) ($26,590) dedicated to anti-trafficking activities. Provincial police did not receive dedicated funding for trafficking cases and funded anti-trafficking investigations through their general crimes budget.

The national police anti-trafficking unit did not have a mechanism to track investigations at all levels of government, making it difficult to assess enforcement trends and to determine the total number of investigations and resolved cases. Nevertheless, law enforcement reported substantially lower law enforcement efforts than in previous years, in part, due to pandemic health and other restrictions that limited their ability to investigate crimes. In 2020, police at the national level reported arresting 42 individuals for alleged labor or sex trafficking, a decrease from 132 in the previous reporting period. Police initiated 38 forced labor or sex trafficking investigations, a substantial decrease from 102 investigations initiated in the previous reporting period, and a continued decrease from 95 investigations in 2018 and 123 in 2017. Police concluded and referred eight of these investigation dossiers to the AGO in 2020, a decrease from 26 in 2019. The Supreme Court’s comprehensive recordkeeping mechanism for national court data reported 232 prosecutions for trafficking (an increase from 226) and 202 case convictions of 259 defendants, an increase from 108 defendants in 2019 (overall, a continued decrease from 204 convictions in 2019, 279 in 2018, and 331 in 2017). As in prior years, the government did not report comprehensive sentencing data. According to media coverage of suspected trafficking cases, prosecutors charged some trafficking cases under its Law on Migrant Workers Protection and Law on Child Protection.

During the reporting period, as included in the statistics previously mentioned, INP commenced investigation into several Chinese and Indonesian individuals related to the forced labor of Indonesian fishermen aboard Chinese-flagged fishing vessels. INP arrested and charged at least 16 Indonesian labor recruiters under the trafficking law and Law on Migrant Workers Protection for various trafficking-related crimes. Courts convicted six individuals, sentenced them to between one and four-and-a-half years’ imprisonment, and ordered them to pay restitution. Investigations or trials against 10 suspects remained ongoing at the close of the reporting period. Additionally, INP arrested and charged two Chinese nationals who were part of the ships’ leadership crews. The trial against one of the suspects, accused of torturing Indonesian fishermen, remained pending. The court acquitted the second official of assault and human trafficking, but the prosecutor appealed at the close of the reporting period. INP continued to investigate additional crewmembers of several Chinese-flagged ships for the forced labor, slavery, and torture of more than 150 Indonesian fishermen and for the death of at least two.

Official complicity in human trafficking offenses remained a significant concern, despite some arrests, investigations, and convictions of government officials for crimes related to trafficking or corruption. During the reporting period, the government convicted two officials for trafficking in cases initiated in 2019; both officials were convicted under the child protection law, one receiving a sentence of six years and three months in prison and a fine and the other receiving a sentence of 12 years’ imprisonment. In 2019, Singaporean authorities alleged that an Indonesian labor official accepted bribes from migrant worker insurance companies to illegally authorize the companies to hire Indonesian migrant workers. While INP claimed it was investigating the case, the official reportedly still worked for the government during the reporting period. In January 2019, provincial police arrested a legislator for allegedly sending a migrant worker to Jakarta, where the individual was forced to work for multiple employers without pay.

Civil society alleged some law enforcement officials and politicians organized raids on entertainment venues to extort financial kickbacks from adults in commercial sex, which may have included sex trafficking victims. 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 occurred, engage in witness intimidation, and intentionally practice weak oversight to insulate recruitment agencies from liability. Bribes and extortion influenced prosecution, conviction, and sentencing in civil and criminal cases, including trafficking cases. Legal aid organizations reported cases often moved very slowly unless a bribe was paid, and prosecutors in some cases sought bribes from defendants in exchange for lighter prosecution or dropped charges. Civil society members alleged some police refused to arrest traffickers who were connected to influential members of society, including through familial relationships with or personal ties to recruitment agencies.

Although some officials received trafficking training from the Indonesian government, international organizations, and foreign governments, authorities did not provide comprehensive trafficking training to all judicial and law enforcement authorities. Observers noted low awareness of trafficking crimes and relevant legislation among local law enforcement and judicial authorities impeded case detection and prosecutorial progress. As a result, authorities often prosecuted suspected traffickers under the Law on Migrant Workers Protection, which prescribed less severe penalties. Civil society contacts reported some civil and criminal trafficking proceedings were informally discontinued prior to a verdict. The Supreme Court included trafficking in its annual curriculum for judges; however, it only accommodated 20 to 30 judges per year. During the reporting period, the Ministry of Women Empowerment and Child Protection (MOWECP) held four in-person trainings for law enforcement on how to investigate trafficking cases using a victim-centered approach. Due to the pandemic, the government limited the number of participants at each training. The government’s anti-trafficking task force did not conduct any trainings on trafficking during the reporting period, as compared to two trainings that reached 175 officials in 2019.


The government maintained inadequate protection efforts. Officials did not collect comprehensive data on the number of victims identified. Disparate government entities sometimes reported their own statistics, making aggregate data incomparable to data reported in earlier periods and possibly double-counting victims as they came into contact with different government agencies. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) utilized procedures for victim identification to assist Indonesian citizens overseas, but the government did not have comprehensive or systematized SOPs for proactive victim identification or referral to rehabilitation services. Observers noted, however, law enforcement did not use SOPs, especially at the municipality and district level. Observers expressed concern that the lack of SOPs and the government’s anti-trafficking infrastructure, which was under the purview of local-level police units and protection agencies who focused primarily on women and children, hindered the identification of victims overall and of rural and male victims. Additionally, the government’s inadequate efforts to screen vulnerable groups for trafficking indicators may have resulted in the punishment or deportation of unidentified trafficking victims. Police were sometimes unresponsive when victims attempted to report their trafficking circumstances. After identifying a potential victim, provincial police sometimes approached NGO service providers for assistance rather than filing cases with provincial social service officials.

The government primarily coordinated services for victims of abuse, including trafficking victims, through local integrated service centers for women and children (P2TP2A). There were P2TP2As in all 34 provinces and approximately 436 districts. Provincial or district governments managed and funded the centers. Services included short-term shelter, medical care, counseling, family liaison services, and some vocational skills training; however, in practice, services varied based on local leadership and funding. Some P2TP2A facilities were not open for the required 24 hours, and women living in rural areas or districts without a P2TP2A center had difficulty receiving support services. Officials acknowledged the central government’s Ministry of Social Affairs (MOSA) had not adequately disseminated legislation passed in 2014 to clarify the roles and responsibilities of provincial social affairs agencies regarding victim protection, resulting in a lack of coordination on victim services at the local level. NGOs continued to play a critical role in supplementing and filling gaps in government services—including for male victims, whom local governments sometimes had to refer to NGOs for shelter. The Witness and Victim Protection Agency (LPSK) maintained a hotline and mobile application to provide information to all victims of crime on filing complaints and available government protection services; however, authorities did not provide statistics on the use of these mechanisms. It operated six shelters for victims and witnesses to crimes who are facing threats or intimidation. Victims entered and exited the six government shelters only upon the approval of a government agency; victims did not have freedom of movement once placed in a shelter and could not seek employment.

MOSA and provincial social affairs agencies funded and operated 28 trauma centers that were available to trafficking victims, the same as in the previous reporting period. The shelters assisted 8,702 individuals during the reporting period, but authorities did not report how many were trafficking victims. Observers noted MOSA did not adequately coordinate with its provincial capital counterparts to repatriate and rehabilitate victims. MOSA also funded and staffed a protection shelter for women who had experienced sexual violence. It assisted 135 women during the reporting period, some of whom were trafficking victims; this is an increase from no data reported on the victims assisted in 2019 and 38 victims assisted at the shelter in 2018. MOSA allocated 2.2 billion IDR ($156,830) to the shelters it funded during the reporting period. The government did not repot MOSA’s funding for shelters in previous years but noted this was a decrease because it diverted some of its funding towards its COVID-19 response. The government prohibited Indonesian seafarers from being placed on certain foreign-flagged fishing vessels where they were likely to be exploited and placed repatriated victims, mostly male, in government shelters; however, a civil society contact noted further government action was necessary to fully protect Indonesian crew aboard foreign-flagged vessels.

The government housed child victims of crimes in children’s homes funded by MOSA and provincial or district governments, and in some cases in partnership with local NGOs. The number of children’s homes remained at 14; the government did not report how many child trafficking victims it housed in 2020 or 2019, compared with 11 housed in 2018. Authorities disaggregated victim protection data using categorizations outside of the standard definition of trafficking. The Commission for Protection of Children did not report whether it identified any child trafficking cases during the reporting period, compared to “40 child trafficking cases, 43 cases of child commercial sexual exploitation, and 57 cases of child commercial sex” in 2019. NGOs and past government reports estimated the number of child sex trafficking victims to be many thousands more. The government housed foreign trafficking victims identified in Indonesia in MOSA’s Jakarta trauma center. The government allowed an international organization to provide counseling and legal services at some shelters. The government did not provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution.

The MFA continued to identify and protect Indonesian trafficking victims exploited abroad. It had an online portal and mobile application available through its embassies for individuals to report exploitation and access services. Some Indonesian consular authorities overseas had labor attaches that identified and referred Indonesian trafficking victims to care, including embassy-run shelters. The government allocated 43 billion IDR ($3.07 million) to the MFA to fund repatriation, maintenance of Indonesian shelters abroad, provision of legal aid, and training for its officials. The MFA received 383 cases of migrant worker complaints in 2020 (259 in 2019, 164 in 2018, 340 in 2017, and 478 in 2016), 290 of which related to labor issues. The MFA did not indicate how many of the 383 it referred to social services (94 referred in 2019 and 95 in 2018). The MFA recovered approximately 140 billion IDR ($9.98 million) in back wages owed to migrant workers (approximately $14 million in 2018). The MFA repatriated at least 104 Indonesian forced labor victims from Syria, including providing them with up to two months of housing in Syria prior to repatriation. This is comparable to previous years; the MFA typically repatriated up to 200 Indonesian forced labor victims from Syria annually. Additionally, the Indonesian embassy in Riyadh repatriated 32 Indonesians during one month of 2020, most of whom were trafficking victims. Finally, the MFA repatriated 589 Indonesian fishermen who complained about working conditions from 98 Chinese-flagged fishing vessels in 2020 (unreported in 2019). The government advocated for workers to receive wages owed from foreign-flagged fishing vessels, including those from China.

Police requested victims stay in government shelters until the completion of relevant investigations, but most victims were only able to stay in the trauma centers for an average of two weeks due to government budget constraints. Women and children reportedly stayed longer, although the government did not provide data on the average length of stay or where victims went once authorities released them. Once the government released a victim from care, it did not track the victim, including for purposes of gathering testimony for their traffickers’ prosecution; instead, authorities relied on an international organization to remain in contact with the victims and provide follow-up assistance, if necessary. A general lack of adequate rehabilitative and reintegrative care, coupled with low awareness among village and local leaders, increased many victims’ risk of re-trafficking, particularly among fishermen returning to their communities after experiencing forced labor at sea. The government’s universal health care system covered some of the medical needs of Indonesian victims; however, the system required identity documents that many Indonesian migrant workers returning from exploitation overseas did not possess. The Ministry of Health (MOH) was responsible for funding victims’ health care, which national police hospitals were obligated to provide free of charge. The MOH did not report if it trained hospital personnel to provide health services to victims of trafficking and violence in 2020 or 2019, compared with training for hospital personnel in six provinces in 2018.

In 2017, the Supreme Court issued guidelines stipulating judges protect female victims during legal processes by considering psychological trauma and allowing video testimony. However, the government did not report if it consistently offered such protections during court proceedings for female trafficking victims. Authorities continued to implement regulations allowing the LPSK to add restitution to the perpetrator’s penalties before or after conviction for human trafficking and other crimes. The government allocated 79 billion IDR ($5.63 million) for the LPSK in 2021, an increase from 56 billion IDR ($3.99 million) allocated in 2020. In 2020, the LPSK provided various protection services to 314 trafficking victims, family members of victims, and witnesses; authorities did not report how many of these were trafficking victims. LPSK officials sought 4.96 billion IDR ($353,580) in restitution for 194 trafficking victims and witnesses ($215,000 in restitution for 44 victims in 2019), but courts only approved 1.26 billion IDR ($89,820) (approximately $87,000 in 2019). Furthermore, nearly half of the restitution that courts approved—598 million IDR ($42,630)—was never paid because Indonesian law allowed convicted traffickers to serve additional imprisonment in lieu of paying restitution. LPSK did not report the outcomes or status of the remaining cases. Further compounding access to recompense and justice, some recruitment agencies harassed, intimidated, or filed defamation lawsuits against victims attempting to report their abuses. Many victims originated from remote rural areas and lacked the financial means necessary to travel to, or remain in, urban areas for the long duration of trial proceedings. There were no reports of specific instances in which the government arrested, detained, fined, or otherwise punished trafficking victims for crimes traffickers compelled them to commit. However, adults in commercial sex work have been charged with crimes against morality and decency and can be sentenced to public caning under Sharia law in Aceh province.


The government maintained efforts to prevent trafficking. The government had a national anti-trafficking in persons task force, coordinated by MOWECP and chaired by the Ministry of Human Development and Culture, that led anti-trafficking efforts across 21 ministries. It met multiple times during the reporting period and continued development, but did not finalize, a draft 2020-2024 anti-trafficking national action plan. The national task force maintained 32 provincial-level task forces, one in every province except Papua and West Papua, and 251 municipal and district-level task forces—a slight increase from 32 provincial and 242 municipal task forces in the previous reporting period. Observers continued to note insufficient funding and lack of coordination within and between the local task forces and the national task force. Some provincial task forces also suffered from a lack of understanding of trafficking among members, lack of procedures to guide their work, and a lack of coordination. Moreover, it was unclear how many were active or met during the reporting period. The government substantially decreased its budget allocation to MOWECP’s trafficking office. While some of the reduction was a result of the pandemic, this was the fourth consecutive year of decreased funding—from 20.1 billion IDR ($1.43 million) in 2018, to 17.3 billion IDR ($1.23 million) in 2019, to 6.5 billion IDR ($463,360) in 2020, and further to 4.26 billion IDR ($303,680) in 2021.

The 2017 Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers law mandated that provincial governments – instead of private companies – oversee the provision of pre-departure vocational training and the placement of workers. Article 30 stated Indonesian migrant workers “cannot be borne with placement costs,” and Article 72 prohibited recruiters or employers from passing on to the worker any placement costs that they had originally paid. The law also mandated the designation of a single agency to license recruitment agencies. During the reporting period, the government passed a new implementing regulation defining, and exempting Indonesian migrant workers from, placement fees. While the government began to implement the regulation, migrant workers continued to report payment of illegal placement fees. In addition, one of the new 2020 implementing regulations required married migrant workers to obtain permission from their spouse to work abroad. That requirement increased the probability that women would migrate through illicit channels, which increased vulnerability to traffickers. Prior to the 2017 law, recruitment agencies charged migrant workers fees based on their chosen profession and destination. Observers reported the government was not effective in protecting migrant workers from expenditures higher than the government-set recruitment fee, and many migrant workers still remitted their first year of wages to their recruiters or employers to repay the initial costs of recruitment and placement, which traffickers used to coerce and retain victims’ labor. In 2020, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) temporarily suspended the licenses of five recruitment agencies—the same as in 2019 but still a large decrease from suspending 18 licenses in 2018. Notably, MOM revoked the licenses of 111 such agencies—a substantial increase from not revoking any licenses in 2019 and revoking only one in each 2018 and 2017. The reasons for the suspended and revoked licenses included cramped or unsafe accommodations in dormitories, document forgery, coercive or deceptive recruitment practices and contract signings, underage recruitment, illegal fees, and sending workers to Middle Eastern countries that Indonesia’s moratorium on the placement of domestic workers prohibited. The government did not report whether it referred any of the 116 companies to police for criminal investigations of human trafficking-related offenses. The 2017 law stated that MOM had the authority to terminate a recruitment agency’s license if it violated any of the regulations, but it did not address the use of unlicensed sub-agents who regularly charged migrant workers a fee to connect them to a recruitment agency.

The government continued its ban on overseas placement to 21 Middle East and North African nations, despite noting the number of migrant workers circumventing the ban through the use of illegal recruiters continued to increase. The UN, other international organizations, and NGOs continued to argue any ban on migration increased the likelihood that workers would migrate illegally, heightening their risk of human trafficking. Constituting a freedom of movement concern that could have further exacerbated irregular migration through unsafe channels, the government confiscated the passports of any Indonesians repatriated with government assistance if they had violated an overseas placement ban. The government maintained memoranda of understanding (MOUs) with nine countries in the Asia-Pacific and Middle East regions for the recruitment, placement, and protection of Indonesian migrant workers. It continued to negotiate additional MOUs with the Governments of Brunei and Malaysia. In its MOU with Saudi Arabia, the governments agreed migrant workers should not be charged placement fees. Article 31 of the 2017 migrant workers law stipulated the government could only allow a person to migrate to a destination country that had a law on foreign worker protection, a written agreement with the destination government, and a social security system or insurance to protect migrant workers. MOM did not report an update on its initiative to review its existing bilateral MOUs on migrant worker protections to ensure compliance; in the absence of robust monitoring schemes, and amid inconsistent labor laws and regulations in receiving countries, abuses, including forced labor, persisted.

The government did not effectively implement its existing regulations over the fishing sector, which allowed forced labor to persist. Underscoring NGO claims of insufficient oversight, central government records appeared to drastically underreport the number of Indonesians working in the global fishing industry when compared against analogous records maintained by another key destination country’s authorities. The Ministry Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF) and the MFA continued to deconflict roles and responsibilities with regard to oversight of recruitment and labor practices in the fishing sector. In principle, MMAF would certify the credentials of both fishermen and fishing vessels cleared to accept Indonesian workers, the Ministry of Transportation would validate work contracts, and MOM would oversee coordination between ministries. For the second consecutive year, the president did not sign the implementing regulations required to solidify these roles and responsibilities (related to Law No. 18/2017 on the Coordinating Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Investment’s National Action Plan on Seafarers and Fishing Crews Protection), which hampered coordination efforts. Civil society groups noted many Indonesian and migrant fishermen were unaware of their rights and responsibilities and unprepared for the work in the absence of standardized, employer-paid pre-departure and post-arrival orientation and training. During the reporting period, after media reports emerged of Indonesian forced labor on Chinese-flagged fishing vessels, the government instituted a ban on Indonesian fishermen working aboard Chinese-flagged vessels, vessels operated by Chinese companies, and South Korean- and Taiwanese-flagged vessels operating outside of their Exclusive Economic Zones. One NGO, however, lamented that this ban would not stem forced labor on such vessels because it did not account for the substantial illegal recruitment of workers, and it is easy for a company to change the flag or ownership of the ship to evade the restrictions. Internally, the government established two Fishers Centers in 2020 to handle complaints from fishermen. The centers received 36 complaints of labor violations during the reporting period, from both Indonesian and foreign fishermen.

The Labor Inspectorate had the authority to inspect for, and sanction, child labor violations in the formal sector. MOM conducted more than 10,000 inspections during the reporting period, including more than 580 for child labor, but did not identify any child labor violations. Low compensation for inspectors and limited capacity among provincial and local-level officials reportedly impeded effective oversight. Additionally, MOM officials acknowledged such violations likely existed, including forced child labor, but inspectors’ inability to access the informal sector hampered identification efforts. To reduce their vulnerability to child and forced labor, the government sent 94 teachers to Malaysian palm oil plantations to educate the children of Indonesian migrant palm oil laborers. Several ministries and agencies, including MOWECP, MOSA, and the Indonesian Migrant Worker Protection Agency (BP2MI), operated hotlines on a range of issues inclusive of, but not limited to, trafficking. In 2020, BP2MI’s complaint system received 1,812 complaints from workers placed overseas, a drastic decrease from 9,377 complaints in 2019 and 4,678 in 2018. Of the complaints, BP2MI reported 89 were related to trafficking (54 in 2019 and 36 in 2018) and 1,363 demonstrated certain trafficking indicators (2,937 in 2019 and 1,852 in 2018). Although BP2MI reportedly referred these cases to police for investigations, the government did not report whether it took any action on the referrals. During the reporting period, BP2MI partnered with religious organizations to launch the Task Force on Migrant Worker Illegal Placement Eradication, which seeks to end illicit labor recruitment. The task force identified 200 villages in six provinces as key source areas for non-procedural migrant workers, or those who go abroad outside of the formal government procedures, and began outlining plans for engagement.

The government continued public awareness events on trafficking, including by conducting awareness-raising activities that highlighted the legal procedures to migrate for work and migrant workers’ rights. The Indonesian embassy in Kuwait launched a pocketbook for migrants that explained Kuwait’s migrant worker policies, including the right to retain one’s visa and work contract, as well as information on salaries, working hours, and overtime requirements. Due to the pandemic, the MFA did not conduct any trainings for junior diplomatic personnel on trafficking (100 trained in 2019 and 59 in 2018). The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. The government made efforts to reduce the demand for child sex tourism by arresting two foreigners who engaged in commercial sex acts with children and coordinating with foreign governments to deny entry to known sex offenders.


As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Indonesia and exploit victims from Indonesia abroad. Each of Indonesia’s 34 provinces is a source and destination of trafficking. The government estimates that more than two million of the six to eight million Indonesians working abroad—many of whom are women working in the domestic sector—are undocumented or have overstayed their visas, increasing their risk to trafficking; the true number of undocumented Indonesian workers is likely much higher. During the reporting period, nearly 200,000 of the documented Indonesian migrant workers returned to Indonesia due to the pandemic. Labor traffickers exploit many Indonesians through force and debt-based coercion in Asia (particularly China, South Korea, and Singapore) and the Middle East (in particular Saudi Arabia) primarily in domestic work, factories, construction, and manufacturing, on Malaysian oil palm plantations, and on fishing vessels throughout the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Indonesian women are exploited in forced labor in Syria. Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Middle East host many Indonesian domestic workers who are unprotected under local labor laws and often experience indicators of trafficking, including excessive working hours, lack of formal contracts, and unpaid wages. Many of these workers come from the province of East Nusa Tenggara. NGOs estimate unscrupulous labor recruitment agents and sub-agents are responsible for more than half of Indonesian female trafficking cases overseas. To migrate overseas, workers often assume debt that both Indonesian and overseas recruitment agents exploit to coerce and retain their labor. Additionally, some companies withhold identity documents and use threats of violence to keep migrants in forced labor. Sex traffickers exploit Indonesian women and girls primarily in Malaysia, Taiwan, and the Middle East. Some for-profit universities in Taiwan aggressively recruit Indonesians and subsequently place them into exploitative labor conditions under the pretense of educational opportunities. These students are often unaware of the work component prior to arrival and reportedly experience contract switching, prohibitive working hours, and poor living conditions contrary to their original agreements. Fraudulent recruitment agencies have sent at least 100 Indonesians to Taiwan under the guise of university scholarships where, upon arrival, they were forced to work at an iron foundry to repay a “loan” for alleged schooling fees.

In Indonesia, labor traffickers exploit women, men, and children in fishing, fish processing, and construction; on oil palm and other plantations; and in mining and manufacturing. Traffickers exploit women and girls in forced labor in domestic service. Traffickers may subject children to forced criminality in the production, sale, and transportation of illicit drugs. Government regulations allow employers in certain sectors, including small and medium enterprises and such labor-intensive industries as textile manufacturing, an exemption from minimum wage requirements, thereby increasing the risk of workers in those sectors to debt-based coercion. More than 1.5 million Indonesian children between 10 and 17 years old work in agriculture, including on tobacco plantations, without gear to protect them from the sun and chemicals; working without proper protective gear can be an indicator of forced labor. NGOs report that in the city of Bima, on the island of Sumbawa, some professional horse racers use child jockeys, some of whom may be forced. Early marriage practices pushed many children—especially in poorer rural communities—into employment as new primary earners for their households, driving a high incidence of child labor migration through channels known for deceptive recruitment practices, debt bondage, and other forced labor indicators. In at least one case, an Indonesian lured another woman into marriage with a Chinese male through a “mail-order bride” program, where the woman was forced to work 14 hours per day at her new “husband’s” shop and plantation.

According to one international organization, up to 30 percent of individuals in commercial sex in Indonesia are female child sex trafficking victims. Sex traffickers often use debt or offers of jobs in restaurants, factories, or domestic service to coerce and deceive women and girls into exploitation in commercial sex across Indonesia, and notably in Batam and Jakarta. Sex traffickers use spas, hotels, bars, karaoke establishments, and other businesses to facilitate sex trafficking. Traffickers also exploit women and girls in sex trafficking near mining operations in Maluku, Papua, and Jambi provinces. Traffickers increasingly use online and social media platforms to recruit victims. In 2017, an NGO estimated there were 70,000 to 80,000 child sex trafficking victims in Indonesia. Child sex tourism is prevalent in the Riau Islands bordering Singapore. Bali is a destination for Indonesians and foreign tourists engaging in child sex tourism. Middle Eastern tourists come to Indonesia, particularly Puncak district in Bogor, and pay more than $700 for a “contract marriage,” usually up to one week in duration, that allows them to have extramarital sex without violating Islamic law. The girls as young as 9 years old, and some of the women, that the tourists “marry” are sex trafficking victims. While this is a religious practice, there is tacit government acceptance. Indonesian women are recruited abroad for ostensibly legitimate employment and are exploited in sex trafficking abroad, including in Timor-Leste.

Indonesians, including children, whose homes or livelihoods were destroyed by natural disasters in 2020 are vulnerable to trafficking; this is also true for four million children deemed by the government to be “neglected” and for approximately 16,000 homeless children estimated to be living in urban environments. Government failure to prevent companies from encroaching on indigenous communities’ land, sometimes in collusion with the military and local police, contributed to displacement that also left some ethnic minority groups vulnerable to trafficking. Endemic corruption among government officials facilitates practices that contribute to trafficking vulnerabilities in the travel, hospitality, and labor recruitment industries. Widespread social stigma and discrimination against members of Indonesia’s LGBTQI+ communities and persons living with HIV/AIDS complicated their access to formal sector employment, placing them at higher risk of human trafficking through unsafe employment in the informal sector. During the reporting period, nearly 350 Rohingya left Indonesian refugee camps by boat with human smugglers to reach Malaysia.

Senior vessel crew on board Chinese, Korean, Vanuatuan, Taiwan, Thai, Malaysian, Italian, and Philippines-flagged and/or owned fishing vessels operating in Indonesian, Thai, Sri Lankan, Mauritian, and Indian waters subject Indonesian fishermen to forced labor. During the reporting period, several Indonesian forced labor victims aboard Chinese-flagged fishing vessels sent a plea for assistance over social media, detailing persistent exploitation that included physical violence and the vessel’s crew refusal to feed workers until they completed their daily 20-hour shifts. Authorities secured the release of 157 Indonesian fishermen from the vessels, with strong indicators of forced labor, and confirmed that 12 Indonesian workers had died aboard the vessels between November 2019 and August 2020. Some trafficking victims reported the Chinese-flagged vessels had initially recruited them under the guise of well-paying jobs on Korean-flagged vessels. Traffickers recruited many fishing forced labor victims from Java, where they targeted poor farm workers, fraudulently recruited them with promises of high salaries and good working conditions, provided illicit travel documents, and made workers sign contracts so hard to break that experts refer to them as “slavery contracts.” Some Chinese-, Korean-, and Taiwanese-flagged vessels force Indonesian workers to remain on the vessel and work after the conclusion of their contract until the company secures replacement workers. Some of the traffickers promised to send the workers’ salaries directly to their families, but after several months at sea, many workers discovered the vessels had not sent any payments.

Dozens of recruitment agencies in Burma, Indonesia, and Thailand lure fishermen with promises of high wages, charge fees and curtailment deposits to assign them fake identity and labor permit documents, and then send them to fish long hours in waters on vessels operating under complex multinational flagging and ownership arrangements. Some fishermen are unaware their recruitment agencies continue to withhold or withdraw funds from their salary for years. Crew on board these vessels have reported low or unpaid salaries and coercive tactics such as contract discrepancies, document retention, restricted communication, poor living and working conditions, threats of physical violence, and severe physical and sexual abuse. Boat captains and crews prohibit fishermen from leaving their vessels and reporting these abuses through threats of exposing their fake identities to the authorities, threats of blacklisting them from future fishing employment, and, in previous years, by detaining them on land in makeshift prisons. Forced to sail longer distances to adjust to dwindling fish stocks, some crews remain at sea for months or even years without returning to shore, compounding their invisibility and preserving abusive senior crews’ impunity. Most Indonesian fishermen work aboard vessels operating in Taiwan’s highly vulnerable distant water fleet; many are also fishing in Korea’s distant water fleets. More than 7,000 Indonesian fishermen per year sign in and out of foreign vessels at the port in Cape Town, South Africa, reportedly facing dire working conditions, particularly on vessels owned by citizens of Taiwan, Korea, and Japan. Traffickers also subject fishermen from other parts of Asia to forced labor on board fishing vessels in Indonesian waters; according to one recent study, these vessels account for nearly half of all migrant fishermen trafficked from Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam. In Indonesian waters and elsewhere, some senior vessel crew force fishermen to engage in illegal fishing, poaching, smuggling, and illegal entry into national territories, making them vulnerable to criminalization. Companies operating under the auspices of the Japanese government’s “Technical Intern Training Program” have subjected Indonesian nationals to forced labor in food processing, manufacturing, construction, and fishing.