Human Trafficking Casts Shadow Over Batam With Authorities Struggling to Stem the Tide

by Nurfika Osman Human Trafficking Casts Shadow Over Batam With Authorities Struggling to Stem the Tide

by Nurfika Osman
Human Trafficking Casts Shadow Over Batam With Authorities Struggling to Stem the Tide

by Nurfika Osman

Batam. Women’s rights activists are facing an uphill battle in trying to curb and eradicate the human trafficking that goes through Batam Island, just south of Singapore and peninsular Malaysia.

Its proximity to both regional neighbors — about 45 minutes away by ferry — and the porous maritime border make Batam a hot spot for people smugglers moving their victims between the countries.

“We have many illegal harbors here that are being used to traffic young girls and women,” said Syarifah Normawati, from Batam’s Womens Empowerment and Child Protection Agency. She assists trafficking victims in Sai Beduk subdistrict.

Based on a recent customs investigation, at least 47 illegal harbors were operating in the area. But with a shortage of personnel to properly conduct surveillance, local authorities are at pains to keep up patrols of the multitude of islands, islets and channels.

“This now involves international syndicates and we are being overwhelmed by trafficking cases,” Syarifah said, adding that traffickers made billions of rupiah for each victim smuggled overseas.

Urma Adolf, also from the Batam women’s empowerment agency, said preventive action such as monitoring harbors proved ineffective because traffickers always managed to find ways to enter Batam.

“We’re afraid that trafficking is going to boom in Batam if we cannot control this anymore,” Syarifah said.

Based on the agency’s data, 159 trafficking cases were reported in Batam in 2009, mostly girls and young women from small towns in West Java, such as Cianjur and Indramayu and Banten.

The figure for the first nine months of 2010 is currently at 40, but activists and officials alike warn that the number of cases uncovered are only the tip of the iceberg.

In an attempt to curb trafficking, a local bylaw was issued in 2002 to stem the unrestrained flow of immigrants by requiring job seekers to have a letter of guarantee from their prospective employers. However, it was found this policy was difficult to enforce because of Batam’s porous borders.

Nurmadiah, head of Batam’s women’s empowerment agency, said trafficking had tainted Batam’s official status as a special economic zone and investment region. “Many people say that Batam is just a sex tourism site, and I cannot agree more with what they’re saying,” she said.

According to Nurmadiah, some 60 percent of Batam’s population was not native to the region and was indicative of how many people had been trafficked to the island.

She blamed poor education and poverty in the victims’ hometowns as being the main driving factor in the illegal trade. “Women and girls really need education; this the only effective way to prevent them from being trafficked,” she said.

“The problems occur in the places where the victims come from, and that should be where it is dealt with — not by us.”

Nurmadiah said the governments of West Java, Banten, East Java and West Nusa Tenggara were now in talks to collaborate more closely to prevent young women and girls being trafficked.

“Strong coordination among related parties, such as with the provinces of origin, is a must to deal with this,” she said.

Syarifah said Batam’s women’s agency was drafting a memorandum of understanding to be signed by the concerned provinces. “We want them to share the responsibility with us, such as allocating funds to return victims of trafficking back home,” she said.

Victims are often left severely traumatized by the experience and many subsequently suffer from mental health problems.

One victim, Yati, an Ambonese woman in her 20s, had to be put in a holding cell by Batam’s Social Affairs Agency. The young woman was refusing to wear clothes, screaming and talking to herself, reportedly because she had been raped repeatedly after being sold into prostitution.

When the Globe tried to approach her, she shouted: “What are you looking at? You want to call me crazy, don’t you?”

Nor Arifin, head of the Social Affairs Agency, said Yati had also contracted HIV.

“We are still looking for her family and if she remains like this, we will send her to a mental hospital in Pekanbaru,” she said, adding that similar cases had to be addressed every month.

However, Pekanbaru’s mental hospital is already overcapacity and is refusing new trafficking victims, leaving the agency’s six social workers and limited facilities to care for them.

Nurmadiah said the fight against trafficking had a long way to go. “When we start thinking of this as a normal thing, we face a major threat,” she said. “Cases of abuse against women and children should not be forgotten. We need more people to care in order to combat the violence against them.”
<span style="font-size: 14pt"><span style="font-weight: bold">Human Trafficking Casts Shadow Over Batam With Authorities Struggling to Stem the Tide</span></span><br /> <br /> by Nurfika Osman<br /> <br /> Batam. Women&rsquo;s rights activists are facing an uphill battle in trying to curb and eradicate the human trafficking that goes through Batam Island, just south of Singapore and peninsular Malaysia.<br /> <br /> Its proximity to both regional neighbors &mdash; about 45 minutes away by ferry &mdash; and the porous maritime border make Batam a hot spot for people smugglers moving their victims between the countries.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We have many illegal harbors here that are being used to traffic young girls and women,&rdquo; said Syarifah Normawati, from Batam&rsquo;s Womens Empowerment and Child Protection Agency. She assists trafficking victims in Sai Beduk subdistrict.<br /> <br /> Based on a recent customs investigation, at least 47 illegal harbors were operating in the area. But with a shortage of personnel to properly conduct surveillance, local authorities are at pains to keep up patrols of the multitude of islands, islets and channels.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;This now involves international syndicates and we are being overwhelmed by trafficking cases,&rdquo; Syarifah said, adding that traffickers made billions of rupiah for each victim smuggled overseas.<br /> <br /> Urma Adolf, also from the Batam women&rsquo;s empowerment agency, said preventive action such as monitoring harbors proved ineffective because traffickers always managed to find ways to enter Batam.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We&rsquo;re afraid that trafficking is going to boom in Batam if we cannot control this anymore,&rdquo; Syarifah said.<br /> <br /> Based on the agency&rsquo;s data, 159 trafficking cases were reported in Batam in 2009, mostly girls and young women from small towns in West Java, such as Cianjur and Indramayu and Banten.<br /> <br /> The figure for the first nine months of 2010 is currently at 40, but activists and officials alike warn that the number of cases uncovered are only the tip of the iceberg.<br /> <br /> In an attempt to curb trafficking, a local bylaw was issued in 2002 to stem the unrestrained flow of immigrants by requiring job seekers to have a letter of guarantee from their prospective employers. However, it was found this policy was difficult to enforce because of Batam&rsquo;s porous borders.<br /> <br /> Nurmadiah, head of Batam&rsquo;s women&rsquo;s empowerment agency, said trafficking had tainted Batam&rsquo;s official status as a special economic zone and investment region. &ldquo;Many people say that Batam is just a sex tourism site, and I cannot agree more with what they&rsquo;re saying,&rdquo; she said.<br /> <br /> According to Nurmadiah, some 60 percent of Batam&rsquo;s population was not native to the region and was indicative of how many people had been trafficked to the island.<br /> <br /> She blamed poor education and poverty in the victims&rsquo; hometowns as being the main driving factor in the illegal trade. &ldquo;Women and girls really need education; this the only effective way to prevent them from being trafficked,&rdquo; she said.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;The problems occur in the places where the victims come from, and that should be where it is dealt with &mdash; not by us.&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Nurmadiah said the governments of West Java, Banten, East Java and West Nusa Tenggara were now in talks to collaborate more closely to prevent young women and girls being trafficked.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;Strong coordination among related parties, such as with the provinces of origin, is a must to deal with this,&rdquo; she said.<br /> <br /> Syarifah said Batam&rsquo;s women&rsquo;s agency was drafting a memorandum of understanding to be signed by the concerned provinces. &ldquo;We want them to share the responsibility with us, such as allocating funds to return victims of trafficking back home,&rdquo; she said.<br /> <br /> Victims are often left severely traumatized by the experience and many subsequently suffer from mental health problems.<br /> <br /> One victim, Yati, an Ambonese woman in her 20s, had to be put in a holding cell by Batam&rsquo;s Social Affairs Agency. The young woman was refusing to wear clothes, screaming and talking to herself, reportedly because she had been raped repeatedly after being sold into prostitution.<br /> <br /> When the Globe tried to approach her, she shouted: &ldquo;What are you looking at? You want to call me crazy, don&rsquo;t you?&rdquo;<br /> <br /> Nor Arifin, head of the Social Affairs Agency, said Yati had also contracted HIV.<br /> <br /> &ldquo;We are still looking for her family and if she remains like this, we will send her to a mental hospital in Pekanbaru,&rdquo; she said, adding that similar cases had to be addressed every month.<br /> <br /> However, Pekanbaru&rsquo;s mental hospital is already overcapacity and is refusing new trafficking victims, leaving the agency&rsquo;s six social workers and limited facilities to care for them.<br /> <br /> Nurmadiah said the fight against trafficking had a long way to go. &ldquo;When we start thinking of this as a normal thing, we face a major threat,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Cases of abuse against women and children should not be forgotten. We need more people to care in order to combat the violence against them.&rdquo;<br />
KuKuKaChu: dangerously too sophisticated
i can't help but feel that this issue is being deliberately overstated for some other agenda.
i can't help but feel that this issue is being deliberately overstated for some other agenda.
KuKuKaChu: dangerously too sophisticated
kukukachu you are a jihad warrior for the cause of womens rights! Thanks for the berani investigative journalism into this scourge on family values. BTW can you suggest a good bar in Batam where I may meet cewek for happy happy tampa basa basi...
kukukachu you are a jihad warrior for the cause of womens rights! Thanks for the berani investigative journalism into this scourge on family values. BTW can you suggest a good bar in Batam where I may meet cewek for happy happy tampa basa basi...
i have no issue with women's rights. of course women have rights. but it doesn't mean that lies or exaggerations can be justified.

for a "good" bar, try Lucy's Oarhouse ... they'll have what you are looking for.
i have no issue with women's rights. of course women have rights. but it doesn't mean that lies or exaggerations can be justified.<br /> <br /> for a &quot;good&quot; bar, try Lucy's Oarhouse ... they'll have what you are looking for.
KuKuKaChu: dangerously too sophisticated
I know the OP is really old but I was wondering about the amount of human trafficking still going on from Batam. Seems to me with all the access points to the Ocean it would be close to impossible to control.
I know the OP is really old but I was wondering about the amount of human trafficking still going on from Batam. Seems to me with all the access points to the Ocean it would be close to impossible to control.
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