Indonesia is a major source and, to a much lesser extent, destination and transit country for women, men, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Each of its 34 provinces is a source and destination of trafficking. The government estimates 1.9 million of the 4.5 million Indonesians working abroad – many of whom are women – are undocumented or have overstayed their visas, increasing their vulnerability to trafficking. Indonesians are exploited in forced labor abroad – primarily in domestic service, factories, construction, and on Malaysian palm oil plantations – and subjected to sex trafficking. A significant number of Indonesian migrant workers face forced labor, including debt bondage, in Asia, the Middle East, and on fishing vessels. Malaysia remains the top destination for Indonesian migrant workers, followed by Saudi Arabia, and the government estimates more than one million of the 1.9 million Indonesian workers in irregular status are in Malaysia. Indonesian victims were identified in other Asian and Middle Eastern countries during the reporting period – including South Korea – as well as in the Pacific Islands, Africa, Europe (including the Netherlands and Turkey), and North America. Indonesian women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking primarily in Malaysia, Taiwan, and the Middle East. Experts report the government's expanding use of biometric travel documents, which make false travel documents harder to obtain, have resulted in more undocumented workers traveling abroad by sea.

Reports continue of Indonesian fishermen in forced labor on Taiwanese and South Korean fishing vessels in non-Indonesian waters. In past years, Indonesian men have been subjected to forced labor on fishing vessels in Indonesian waters. The government reported a significant number of foreign men in forced labor on fishing vessels in Indonesian waters, including from Burma, Cambodia, and Thailand; most of the vessels belong to Thai parent companies that operate under the auspices of Thai-Indonesian shell companies. Thai traffickers issue fake Thai identity documents to foreign workers and force them to fish in Indonesian waters, threatening to expose their fake identities if they contact Indonesian authorities. Thai-Indonesian shell companies based in fishing ports in eastern Indonesia perpetuate these abuses by prohibiting fishermen from leaving their vessels or detaining them on land in makeshift prisons after the government's 2014 moratorium on foreign fishing vessels grounded many of the men's ships in port.

NGOs estimate labor recruiters are responsible for more than half of Indonesian female trafficking cases overseas. The government and NGOs note as awareness of trafficking increases, traffickers are recruiting more victims from eastern Indonesian provinces, where awareness is lower. Migrant workers often accumulate significant debt from independent labor recruiters overseas and Indonesian recruitment companies, making them vulnerable to debt bondage. Some companies use debt bondage, withholding of documents, and threats of violence to keep migrants in forced labor. In many cases, corrupt officials facilitate the issuance of false documents, accept bribes to allow brokers to transport undocumented migrants across borders, protect venues where sex trafficking occurs, practice weak oversight of recruitment agencies, and thwart law enforcement and judicial processes to hold traffickers accountable.

In Indonesia, women, men, and children are exploited in forced labor in fishing, fish processing, and construction; on plantations, including palm oil; and in mining and manufacturing. Many females are exploited in domestic servitude and sex trafficking, including Colombian women in forced prostitution. Victims are often recruited with offers of jobs in restaurants, factories, or domestic service but are subjected to sex trafficking. Debt bondage is particularly prevalent among sex trafficking victims. Women and girls are subjected to sex trafficking near mining operations in Maluku, Papua, and Jambi provinces. When the government closed a large red light district in 2014, protections for women who worked in prostitution in the district decreased, increasing their vulnerability to sex trafficking in other regions, including Bali and Papua. Children are exploited in sex trafficking in the Batam district of Riau Islands province and have been exploited in West Papua province in previous years. Reports suggest an increase in university and high school students using social media to recruit and subject other students to sex trafficking. Child sex tourism is prevalent in the Riau Islands bordering Singapore, and Bali is a destination for Indonesian child sex tourists.

The Government of Indonesia does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government convicted 119 traffickers, repatriated 5,668 Indonesian trafficking victims identified abroad, and provided short-term shelter and services to more than 441 trafficking victims. In one case the government convicted eight traffickers for forced labor on fishing vessels, but it did not initiate any other prosecutions for trafficking offenses in the fishing industry, despite the identification of over 1,500 trafficking victims in that sector. The government created eight new shelters to serve victims of crimes, including trafficking, but the quality and services of shelters varied widely across regions. Officials' lack of knowledge of trafficking indicators and anti-trafficking legislation impaired proactive victim identification among vulnerable populations and anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts; inadequate coordination between government agencies hampered the implementation of the national anti-trafficking strategy. Despite endemic corruption among law enforcement that impedes anti-trafficking efforts and enables traffickers to operate with impunity, law enforcement prosecuted only one official for trafficking offenses.


Increase efforts to investigate, prosecute, and convict labor recruitment agencies, brokers, and corrupt public officials involved in trafficking; develop and implement procedures to identify potential victims among vulnerable groups, including returning migrant workers, persons in prostitution, and fishing vessel crew members; train marine ministry staff and labor inspectors on victim identification and referral procedures; provide training for judges, prosecutors, police, and social workers on the anti-trafficking law; monitor recruitment fees charged by private agencies to ensure they are in line with the law; raise awareness among victims of government reintegration services; prosecute and punish those who obtain commercial sexual services from children; increase resources for the anti-trafficking taskforce and improve its coordination across ministries; increase the amount of time allowed to investigate cases of forced labor in the fishing sector to give authorities an opportunity to gather sufficient evidence of trafficking offenses; create a national protocol that clarifies responsibilities for prosecuting trafficking cases when they occur outside victims' respective provinces; and expand awareness-raising campaigns targeted at the public and government in all regions, especially those with high incidences of trafficking.


The government maintained anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. The 2007 anti-trafficking law prohibits all forms of trafficking and prescribes penalties of three to 15 years' imprisonment, which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. Officials reported ineffective coordination among police, prosecutors, and judges hindered the government's ability to investigate, prosecute, and convict traffickers, especially when cases involved numerous jurisdictions, including other countries. Extrajudicial mediation impeded successful prosecutions, as victims whose families received settlements from traffickers were usually unwilling to participate in official law enforcement proceedings. The government lacked a system for reporting and compiling comprehensive data on anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. Authorities' use of the anti-trafficking law to prosecute non-trafficking offenses, such as smuggling, impaired the determination of the total number of anti-trafficking investigations, prosecutions, and convictions. The Indonesian National Police's anti-trafficking unit reported 221 new trafficking investigations during 2015 – a decrease from 305 the previous year. The police referred 165 cases to prosecution, compared with 134 referred in 2014, but it is unclear how many prosecutions were actually initiated. The Supreme Court reported 119 convictions in 2015, with sentences ranging from three to 15 years' imprisonment, an increase from 79 convictions in 2014. A lack of familiarity with the anti-trafficking law led some prosecutors and judges to decline cases or use other laws to prosecute traffickers.

During the reporting period, the police's anti-trafficking unit investigated and prosecuted eight employees of a Thai-Indonesian fishing company – three Indonesian managers and five Thai captains – for the alleged forced labor of Burmese, Thai, Cambodian, and Lao men aboard fishing vessels in Indonesian waters. In March 2016, the judge convicted all eight men under the anti-trafficking law and sentenced each to three years' imprisonment and either an additional two months' imprisonment or a $12,250 fine. Furthermore, the judge ordered the five Thai captains to pay a total of $67,800 in compensation to the 13 identified crew members who testified in the case. Despite identifying more than 620 trafficking victims in Ambon, the government launched only one investigation into trafficking offenses on that island and did not arrest any alleged traffickers in the case. NGOs and government officials reported endemic corruption among security forces and other authorities continued to impede anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts. During the reporting period, police arrested a local official in Batam for allegedly exploiting a girl from West Java in domestic servitude; officials reported this was the first arrest of a Batam official on trafficking charges, and the prosecution was ongoing at the end of the reporting period. Because the police's anti-trafficking unit devoted substantial resources and personnel to investigate forced labor on fishing vessels and Indonesians subjected to trafficking abroad, the police upgraded the status of the anti-trafficking unit from a component of the Unit for the Protection of Women and Children to a separate unit with increased staff. While the government has not yet increased the unit's staff permanently, it temporarily relocated officers from other precincts on an as-needed basis, primarily to gather evidence from Indonesian consulates for trafficking cases involving Indonesian victims abroad.

In September 2015, the government signed a memorandum of understanding with United Arab Emirates (UAE) to facilitate joint investigations of trafficking networks, the exchange of anti-trafficking law enforcement information, and full access to Indonesian trafficking victims in UAE for Indonesian officials. Despite a widespread lack of familiarity with human trafficking and the anti-trafficking law among law enforcement and the judiciary, the government did not report providing or funding any anti-trafficking training for officials.


The government sustained inadequate victim identification efforts and moderate efforts to protect trafficking victims. Officials did not collect or report comprehensive data on victims identified. While the government had standard operating procedures for proactive victim identification, it did not consistently employ them among vulnerable groups; it continued to rely on international organizations and NGOs to identify victims, especially foreign victims in Indonesia. To standardize inspection procedures, the fisheries minister – with NGO support – drafted and adopted a ministerial regulation in October 2015 establishing government-wide protocols for inspecting fishing vessels and screening for trafficking victims among crews, but they were not uniformly implemented during the reporting period. The government continued to work with NGOs to identify trafficking victims from among the crews of ships grounded or destroyed in the government's December 2014 crackdown on fishing vessels operating illegally in Indonesian waters, including victims stranded or detained on the island of Benjina. An international organization reported that with the government, it identified approximately 1,500 men exploited in forced labor in the fishing sector. An NGO also identified 97 forced labor victims – 80 in domestic servitude, 10 in factories, and seven on plantations. The same international organization provided services to 1,322 trafficking victims referred by government agencies, NGOs, lawyers, and foreign embassies; the NGO then referred more than 1,126 of those victims back for shelter and health services, the majority of which were government-run or received some government funding.

The government's systems for overseas workers to file work-related complaints received 462 reports of trafficking and 948 reports of workplace disputes or abuses, some of which may have been trafficking. When these reports led to identification of trafficking victims, the agency to place and protect Indonesian workers abroad referred the cases to the local police precincts in Indonesia where the trafficking had taken place or where the victim had originated. It is unclear if this resulted in any trafficking investigations. Indonesian consular officials screened migrant workers for trafficking and provided shelter and financial assistance to victims. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) repatriated 5,668 Indonesian trafficking victims, a significant increase from approximately 1,200 victims repatriated in 2014. The MFA offered short-term shelter and services to victims upon return and referred them to local governments for further care. In August 2015, Indonesian and Saudi police jointly inspected an illegal shelter in Riyadh and discovered 39 Indonesian domestic workers who had been promised jobs in Bahrain but were forced to work illegally in Saudi Arabia. They arrested the suspected trafficker, repatriated all 39 victims, and provided services upon return.

The government made efforts to aggregate victim services data from government agencies and NGOs, but data remained incomplete, especially from local governments. The Ministry of Social Affairs continued to provide trauma services and reported providing immediate shelter to 441 victims of crime, including trafficking – 242 males and 191 females – in adult rehabilitation centers, children's shelters, and trauma care centers; it established eight new trauma care shelters during the year, bringing the total to 26. The government managed 247 service centers, supported by government and private funds and operated primarily by provincial governments, which served vulnerable populations, including trafficking victims. Some shelters provided some long-term care, including funds to start small businesses. Some trafficking victims were housed in 13 government-operated "detention centers," although the government worked with an international organization to improve the shelters' quality and services. An international organization reported trafficking victims were often unaware of government reintegration services, and follow-up services for victims who had departed shelters remained insufficient. The Ministry of Health was responsible for paying for victims' health care, and national police hospitals were obligated to provide free medical care; NGOs and government officials reported some hospital staff were unaware of this duty or unwilling to provide care without compensation.

During the reporting period, the government's witness protection unit provided legal assistance to at least 88 victims; because multiple agencies provide legal assistance, the total number who received such aid is unknown. The law allows victims to obtain restitution from their traffickers, and at least 25 victims received compensation during the year. There were no reports the government punished victims for crimes committed as a result of being subjected to trafficking, but inadequate efforts to screen vulnerable groups for trafficking indicators, including during raids to arrest persons in prostitution or combat illegal fishing, may have resulted in the punishment of unidentified trafficking victims. The government did not provide legal alternatives to the removal of foreign victims to countries where they may face hardship or retribution.


The government made minimal efforts to prevent trafficking. Most prevention efforts occurred at the district and provincial levels; funding for and activities undertaken by the taskforces varied greatly across regions. The national anti-trafficking taskforce, housed within the Ministry of Women's Empowerment and Child Protection (MoWECP), met several times during the reporting period and adopted a 2015-2019 national action plan to combat trafficking, which focused on enhancing rehabilitation and reintegration services for victims and improving coordination between government ministries and with other stakeholders. With support from international donors and an NGO, the MoWECP and local governments designed and implemented trafficking awareness campaigns to inform citizens of safe migration practices and recruitment procedures. In addition, it established 25 new anti-trafficking taskforces at the local level and, with NGOs, provided vocational training and scholarships to women and school-aged children living in communities targeted by unscrupulous recruiters to reduce their susceptibility to trafficking. The taskforce lacked an operational budget, however, and relied on participating ministries to contribute funds to implement its activities. Insufficient funding of some local taskforces and lack of coordination within and between local taskforces and with the national taskforce at times impeded anti-trafficking efforts. With support from international donors and an NGO, the MoWECP and local governments designed and implemented trafficking awareness campaigns to inform citizens of safe migration practices and recruitment procedures. In November 2015, the Ministry of Labor launched the first of 18 anticipated anti-trafficking centers in migrant source villages. The centers, with some government funding and staff, provided anti-trafficking awareness materials to prospective migrants; economic empowerment programs for at-risk youth; and care and resources for returning victims, including a hotline for migrant workers to report labor violations, including forced labor.

The labor ministry revoked or suspended the licenses of 24 companies allegedly engaged in unscrupulous recruitment, but it is unclear how many agencies the ministry referred to the police for investigation and if the police initiated any investigations. Authorities conducted raids on recruiting companies suspected of illegal practices but did not report any punishments for illegal acts. Due to many cases of Indonesian domestic workers subjected to trafficking in the Middle East, the government expanded its moratorium on permits for Indonesians working in domestic service from five to 21 countries in North Africa and the Middle East. The government's one-year moratorium on foreign-built fishing vessels in Indonesian waters ran through December 2015, during which time the government froze licenses and destroyed boats in a crackdown on illegal fishing. No foreign-built fishing vessels from among the 1,132 under investigation has received its license back or resumed fishing operations since the moratorium's expiration, and no new foreign-built vessels have been allowed to operate. The government did not report any prosecutions or convictions of child sex tourists. The government made efforts to reduce the demand for forced labor and commercial sex acts. The government provided anti-trafficking training for military personnel prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions and for its diplomatic personnel, including modules on identifying trafficking victims and protecting Indonesian migrant workers abroad.


This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.