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Batam - island paradise and haven for migrant worker brokers

SPECIAL REPORT Ships and containers are berthed in a row, backed by towering skyscrapers as the Malaysian border looms in the horizon.

A mobile carrier informs users that roaming charges will now apply, but Kampung Tua, Teluk Mata Ikan and Nongsa form a district in Indonesia’s Batam city.

Its calm, blue waters hide a tragic tale. A boat ferrying 93 undocumented workers returning home from Malaysia capsized while heading towards Teluk Mata Ikan on Nov 2 last year. There was no survivor.

The cove is a popular landing and take-off spot for undocumented workers as Nongsa is a district closest to the borders between Batam, Malaysia and Singapore.

“The boat journey to Malaysia only takes 30 minutes,” said Christianus Pascalis, a local pastor in Batam, who is also a migrant workers’ rights activist.

Nongsa is not a rural district. The Riau Islands’ district police have their headquarters in this town. It has an international airport, a number of holiday resorts and boasts an international standard golf course as part of its attractions.

Its coastlines, however, paint a different picture. Along the cove, Kampung Tua is just one of the many sparsely-populated villages. Each village has its own jetty but there were no boats in sight during one visit.

These small isolated jetties are the main exit points for trafficked Indonesian workers.

According to Pascalis, almost the entire length of Batam’s coastline is used as “escape routes” to traffick illegal workers to Malaysia.

He also identified seven popular hotspots favoured by traffickers - Teluk Mata Ikan, Pulau Berakit, Tanjung Bemban, Tanjung Uma, Tanjung Riau, Sekupang Ujung and Kampung Tua Patam Lestari - all located near Nongsa.

“Because there are so many spots, it is difficult to clamp down on human trafficking,” he noted.

Legal immigration exits are also exploited by human traffickers, who smuggle Indonesians, including citizen Siti Aisyah, who has been charged with the murder of North Korean Kim Jong-nam at KLIA2.

Siti Aisyah first exited the city’s main international ferry terminal at Batam Centre on Feb 2. She is believed to have been working illegally in Malaysia as there is no record of her employment status....

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