Jakarta acts to curb exodus of illegals

Sea patrols have been stepped up and syndicates and their activities at the departure points in Batam and Bintan are being monitored.

THE Indonesian authorities are stepping up security efforts to stem the tide of illegal immigrants into Singapore and Malaysia.

Batam police chief Jose Rizal said that the police, navy and other agencies had in the last month increased naval patrols and intensified their watch on syndicates trafficking in illegal workers to the neighbouring shores.

“The government has banned Indonesians from heading for other countries without proper documentation,” he told The Straits Times in an interview on the weekend.

He said three syndicates were operating independently in Batam but the number could be closer to 20 if the rest of the sprawling archipelago was included.

He said the elusive sydicate leaders, or taikongs, were difficult to track down because they were were constantly on the move.

On the beefed up security operations, he said that intelligence agents were being deployed in at least six “launching sites” on the island used by smugglers to ferry Indonesians across the waters.

The police are also working closely with the navy, port and customs authorities; naval patrols had been upped to four times a day.

Many of those waiting to make the perilous crossing dismissed the risks involved and said they were unaware that Singapore and Malaysia have also stepped up security to block their entry.

One of them, farmer Muhammad Hamdan, 38, from East Java, has waited almost a month for his passage to either Singapore or Malaysia. He sold his two cows and part of a paddy plot in his village in Blitar to come up with one million rupiah (S$100) for the taikong, whom he has not seen since.

“But it is worth it because I know that life is much better outside,” he said.

Col Rizal estimated that an average of 180 Indonesians were waiting to be smuggled out every week, but added that the police could not stop their countrymen from travelling within the country to get to “convenient transit points” such as Batam, Bintan and Dumai.

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