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Tue 9 Apr 2019 02:50 PM

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Indonesia arrests seven over Saudi, wider MENA human trafficking

Alleged traffickers suspected of sending 200 victims to Saudi Arabia to work as domestic workers

Indonesia arrests seven over Saudi, wider MENA human trafficking
Every year, hundreds of thousands of Indonesians from the poorest parts of the Southeast Asian archipelago travel abroad in search of better paying work.

Indonesian police said Tuesday they have arrested seven people linked to human trafficking cases that involved more than 1,200 victims who were smuggled to the Middle East and North Africa.

Between them, the alleged traffickers are suspected to have sent some 500 victims to work as domestic helpers in Morocco, 220 to Turkey, 300 more to Syria and another 200 to Saudi Arabia between 2018 and this year.

"This is the biggest case that the national police have uncovered," Herry Nahak, head of the Indonesian national police’s criminal investigation unit, was quoted as saying by Indonesian media.

It was not immediately clear if there was any connection between the alleged perpetrators, or if any victims were men.

Some victims' wages went unpaid and others were sexually abused, he said, adding that all had since been repatriated to Indonesia.

The suspects were arrested last month and will be charged with trafficking-related offences, Nahak said in the first public announcement about the bust.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of Indonesians from the poorest parts of the Southeast Asian archipelago travel abroad in search of better paying work, including earning a living as maids and labourers.

Jakarta estimates some 4.5 million Indonesians are working overseas, the majority of whom are women and without official documentation.

In 2015, the government introduced a moratorium on sending new domestic workers to some 21 Middle Eastern countries due to the poor treatment of its workers there.

The vulnerability of domestic helpers was highlighted again last year when an Indonesian woman trafficked to neighbouring Malaysia died from serious injuries inflicted by her employer, who was later charged with murder.

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