Kupang, E Nusa Tenggara (ANTARA) - The Kupang city police on Saturday evening prevented 23 Indonesians suspected of hunting jobs illegally in Malaysia from boarding a passenger ship heading to North Kalimantan Province.

"We know North Kalimantan shares border with Malaysia. That is why, we suspect that they will be sent to work in the neighboring country," Kupang City Police Chief Senior Commissioner Rishian Krisna B said here Sunday.

The cops stopped them before boarding MV Siguntang at Tenau Port in Kupang, the capital of East Nusa Tenggara Province, on Saturday evening, because they were suspected of being undocumented migrant workers.

The passenger vessel, which belongs to state-owned ship operator PT Pelayaran Nasional Indonesia (Pelni), would depart for North Kalimantan, he said, adding that they are currently under the police custody.

The police investigators continue to probe the case to uncover individuals who might have recruited them and attempted to send them to work illegally in Malaysia, he added.

Several detainees told the police investigators that they did not know their recruiters. What they knew was that a person driving a rented car had picked them up from their accommodation in Alak Sub-district, he said.

One of the detainees said he and his wife wanted to go to Kalimantan to find jobs while Yefrianus Berek, who is also under the police custody, said he was pledged to get employed in a palm plantation in Kalimantan.

"I have been promised to get employed in a palm plantation in Kalimantan but I have yet to know how much I will be paid monthly," Berek was quoted as saying.

Berek said he felt shocked over his sudden arrest when arriving at Tenau Port.

ANTARA noted that human trafficking has become a hot issue in Indonesia and several other ASEAN member countries.

President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) has even called on ASEAN member states to take firm action against any party involved in human trafficking crimes.

Protection of migrant workers and human trafficking victims had become one of the main points during the 42nd ASEAN Summit in Labuan Bajo, East Nusa Tenggara, on May 10-11, President Jokowi said recently.

In addressing this issue, the Migrant Workers Protection Agency (BP2MI) has urged job seekers aspiring to become migrant workers to utilize authorized recruitment to avoid human trafficking.

"Victims of human trafficking do not have work contracts. They are traded, exploited, and forced to work for up to 20 hours a day," the agency's head, Benny Rhamdani, said recently.

Rhamdani stressed that out of the nine million migrant workers abroad, only 4,727,382 had gone through authorized channels and were registered in their system, while the rest had resorted to illegal means.

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Translator: Kornelis Kaha, Rahmad Nasution
Editor: Sri Haryati
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