Migrant Workers Protection Agency: Mafia in Uniform
TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - BATAM is a main entry point for smuggling illegal Indonesian migrant workers (PMI). Last April, together with Political, Legal, and Security Affairs Coordinating Minister, Mahfud Md., Migrant Workers Protection Agency (BP2MI) Chief Benny Rahman toured the city on the Riau Islands. Benny said illegal migrant workers' shipments were continuing as if they were unstoppable. “I say these are syndicates, small groups that can’t be touched because they are backed by individuals with attributes of power,” he told Tempo reporters, Abdul Manan and Iwan Kurniawan, on Thursday, April 27.
Benny said the BP2MI had been well aware of syndicates’ modus operandi (MO) and how sweet their business was. After returning from Batam, he secured a list of the ringleaders that he had already handed over to Minister Mahfud. “We pin all our hopes on Pak Mahfud,” he said.
During the conversation at BP2MI’s Command Center in East Jakarta, Benny shed light on how his agency tracked illegal workers abroad and assisted those facing various problems. In the past three years, the BP2MI brought at least 1,859 workers back home in caskets. Around 90 of those misfortunate workers went abroad illegally.
Why are illegal migrant worker shipments still continuing?
This is the work of syndicates, mafia. These are small groups that cannot be touched because they are backed by unscrupulous individuals who possess attributes of power. I name police and military officers, ministry and institution officials including BP2MI officials as those who are in cahoots with them. I have to be fair. I fired one of the agency officials eight months ago.
What did he do?
Facilitating illegal worker placements. He got Rp250 million. Someone whispered to me that I should consider the person’s approaching retirement in a month. Of course, I wouldn’t. I am the one who often points finger at other agencies involved. And how come I keep quiet if someone in my agency is involved? I have to (punish the BP2MI employee) to show that I dare to set an example. I will still slap sanctions even if it’s one minute before his retirement. The female (staff) penalty is deferment of promotion for 12 months.
What is their MO in Batam?
I have the data. Backroads are everywhere. Then where do they transit? It’s Batam Center, Harbor Bay. That’s the official route, off the backroads. What (visas) do they use? Umrah (minor pilgrimage) or tourist visa. So, if you want to break the link, if we can’t stop at the upstream (sector), it’s easy: (monitor) at the airport. If they check in with these visas, ask about their return tickets. If they are really traveling for tours, umrah, or other pilgrimages, they should have return tickets because those departing illegally most likely won’t have them. Traffickers won’t spend money first for return tickets for around 100 people. As for law enforcement, punish the culprits severely.
We’ve set up a human trafficking crime (TPPO) task force. I told Pak Mahfud, “I’m sorry, we are toothless, Pak. We have Human Trafficking Law and a derivative, the Presidential Regulation No. 22/2021 on the TPPO. But they are toothless. They are not working. The TPPO task force is chaired by the human development and cultural affairs coordinating minister. Acting women empowerment and child protection minister is the deputy chair and the BP2M1 is one of the members alongside the national police chief, the armed forces commander, the labor minister, and the foreign affairs minister.
Who are the ringleaders?
There are five major smugglers. We handed over the data to Pak Mahfud. If you want to know the names, please ask him. So, we already know who the bosses are. They are the commanders. We know them and understand their MO as well as their manifests. Their manifests have codes: the names, the codes for shippers, etc. Now, (it’s) about enforcing the law. Can the law touch them? That’s beyond our jurisdiction. We’ve stirred up enough, raised enough voices.
How can they still freely smuggle migrant workers?
They have accomplices. For instance, they bring workers from East Nusa Tenggara and transit them to Batam for an overnight layover, in hiding. On average, they are outsiders, not Batam people.
How can they pass through Malaysian immigration?
Well, they have the backing of those with attributes of power.
Also in Malaysia?
The Malaysian side is definitely involved. On our side, uniformed individuals are involved. That’s how they pass over smoothly. You can check the data at Pak Mahfud. Once again, this is the work of the mafia. Syndicates. And this is a huge business. You can get rich from it if you are willing to compromise.
From the BP2MI’s side, what has been done to reduce the number of illegal migrant workers?
Massive education is necessary. And it is not the role of the BP2MI only, but also of the regional government so that the public understands what safe migration is like. Working overseas is an individual’s right. The process and stages are easy. Now people can even borrow from the government to pay the costs. This hasn’t been done massively by state agencies including the BP2MI. We’ve just started the initiative in the last three years. The second is information dissemination. Third, law enforcement.
Read the Full Interview in Tempo English Magazine