President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono plans to issue a decree to combat people smuggling, a top official at the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights has said.
Muchdor, director of investigations and enforcement at the ministry’s Directorate General of Immigration, said the contents of the decree were being drafted by senior officials from 14 related institutions. He said that once finished, the decree would serve as the legal basis for interdepartmental cooperation in combatting people smuggling, which has been on the rise in many parts of the country.
Muchdor was speaking during the launch of a legal reference manual by the International Organization of Migration. The manual is intended to provide practical and technical guidance as well as a legal reference for Indonesian law enforcement officials dealing with the increasing number of illegal migrants traversing Indonesian territory, often on their way to Australia.
According to Adrianus Meliaia, a University of Indonesia expert in transnational crime, “The police always refer to the Criminal Code and immigration officers refer to the Immigration Act when handling people-smuggling cases, yet there are many other laws that they could refer to.”
Meliaia, who headed the project to produce the manual, said a team of researchers comprising the police and immigration, legal and criminal experts had worked since June to create it. The team selected nine Indonesian laws, from which related articles were extracted, to be used to prosecute people smugglers.
The manual contains articles from the Criminal Code, the 1992 Immigration Law, the 2002 Child Protection Law, the 2008 Sea Voyage Law, the 2002 Money Laundering Law, the 2006 Witness and Victim Protection Law and the 2007 Human Trafficking Law.
These are supplemented by the two 2009 laws that ratify the Palermo Convention on transnational organized crime and the UN protocol against the smuggling of migrants.
One of the project’s team members, Anjarina Soko, said the 2008 Sea Voyage Law was included because most people-smuggling activities used sea transportation, often traditional boats, to move illegal migrants in and out of Indonesian waters.
“Traditional boats were not designed to sail into the open seas so officials must be cautious if they find a traditional boat equipped with navigation instruments, as it might be a part of people-smuggling activities,” Anjarina said.
Another team member, Ahmad Khumaidi, said that people smuggling could not yet be categorized as a criminal offense in Indonesia as it was not prosecutable in the absence of a governing law, even though the country has ratified the UN’s anti-people-smuggling protocol.
“It could be prosecutable by amending the Immigration Law or by possibly deliberating a separate bill on people smuggling,” Ahmad said.
The team said there had been 58 recorded cases of illegal migration from August 2008 to July 2009, with 40 of these cases involving the illegal entry of 1,500 people into Indonesia, mostly from Afghanistan.
Since 2004, only 10 cases of illegal migration been prosecuted, resulting in prison terms of less than one year for the guilty parties, despite the five-year sentences demanded by prosecutors.
The reference manual was jointly produced by the IOM mission in Indonesia, the University of Indonesia’s Department of Criminology and the immigration office. It was financed by the Australian Federal Police.
“It was a joint effort from the very start between the University of Indonesia, immigration and the IOM. So it’s been a fruitful collaboration,” said Denis Nihill, the IOM’s mission head in Indonesia.
Although Indonesia has Law No. 21/2007 on the abolition of human trafficking, which usually involves deception and coercion, Steve Cook, former IOM mission head here, noted that it did not have a law specifically dealing with people smuggling, usually undertaken with the consent of the person being smuggled, despite the fact that it was an organized transnational crime.
Cook said the reference manual could be used by officials to more effectively handle the numerous cases of illegal migration in the country.