Tuesday, 12 June, 2012 | 18:21 WIB
Tracking Down a Notorious People Smuggling Syndicate
TEMPO Interactive, Jakarta:They come from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and even Iran. Thousands of them. Illegal immigrants searching for a better life in Australia fly legally into Indonesia's airports. Some others sneak in from Malaysia through a small seaport at the tip of Pulau (island) Batam, or a frontier post in Kalimantan. Their sole destination however is Australia. Many succeed in their attempt. A significant number of them drown at sea. Early in April, a boat carrying 50 illegal immigrants sank in the Sumbawa waters of West Nusa Tenggara.
People smugglers operate illegally with a vast network, with operatives in the little town of Quetta near the Pakistan-Afghanistan border down to Pulau Rote, East Nusa Tenggara. Charging thousands of US dollars, these people arrange the trip sof these illegal refugees.
One of the boat people Tempo managed to meet was Khaliqdad Jamdad, a man from Kabul, Afghanistan. He sold his house for hegira to Australia along with his family. The travel agent was a Ramazan Ali. The fee was US$20,000 (about Rp186 million). From Afghanistan he traveled by land to Malaysia, and crossed over to Indonesia and Australia.
Early in April, the boat carrying him plus 82 other illegal immigrants toward the Christmas Island, Australia, broke down. Two days earlier, the Khaliqdad retinue left Pangandaran, West Java, very early in the morning by a boat called Bajini Nassa manned by a native Indonesian crew who spoke no English.
On the third day, their boat was drifted eastward away from the Christmas Island and got stranded on Wonogoro coast, Malang, East Java, hundreds of kilometers away from the departure point. Exhausted and cold, they were quickly nabbed by the local immigration.
Over the last three years, the number of illegal immigrants rose sharply. Until December 2011 alone, there were almost 4,000 immigrants and asylum seekers, excluding illegal immigrants.
The Australian and Indonesian governments have had trouble dealing with these uninvited immigrants. The more so, police detected a people-smuggling mafia behind the increase in the number of boat people.
"These smugglers build an illegal business by using the refugees from conflict regions," said Johnny Hutauruk, Deputy Head of the Desk in charge of Human Trafficking in the Coordinating Ministry for Political, Legal and Security Affairs in mid-May.