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US Official Urges Indonesia to Crack Down on Human Trafficking

  • Chad Bouchard

The United States is pushing for tougher laws in Indonesia in support of a global effort to eradicate the international slave trade.

The United States has placed Indonesia on a watch list of countries whose population is particularly vulnerable to human traffickers.

John Miller, the U.S. special envoy for human trafficking, says thousands of Indonesians - particularly women and children - are sold into domestic or sexual slavery each year.

On Saturday, at a crisis center in Jakarta run by the International Organization for Migration, Miller met with dozens of Indonesians who were forced to work in neighboring Malaysia. He also spoke to reporters.

"They tell of agents here deceiving them, of employers over there working them 15, 18 hours a day, of being beaten, of having their stomachs stomped on. This is something we must all work together to stop," he said.

Indonesia is one of eight countries participating in a $50-million, U.S.-funded program aimed at preventing human trafficking, prosecuting the traffickers, and rehabilitating victims of the crime.

Miller says Indonesians are particularly vulnerable to human traffickers because of the country's poverty, widespread slavery rings, and lack of law enforcement due to corruption.

Indonesian legislators are considering a bill that would help prosecutors convict traffickers and impose tougher penalties on them. Miller is urging lawmakers to pass the legislation by the end of the year.

But he says developed countries such as the U.S. must also fight trafficking by cracking down on the "demand side" of the industry. He says the U.S. is helping thousands of survivors from other countries who have been exploited in America after being lured there by promises of cash or educational opportunities.

"But we are not doing enough in this area," he said. "We estimated there were 17-and-a-half thousand coming across our borders. So there is a gap. We must do better at getting victims to come forward."

The International Organization for Migration has provided counseling, medical treatment and job assistance for more than a thousand trafficking victims at crisis centers in Indonesia this year. The effort is part of a four-year program to recover, treat, and re-integrate victims into society.

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