Wayne Palmer. 2012. Discretion and the Trafficking-Like Practices of the Indonesian State. In Labour Migration and Human Trafficking in Southeast Asia: Critical Perspectives, edited by M. Ford, L. Lyons and W. van Schendel. London: Routledge, pp.149-166.

Observers of Indonesia’s formal labour export program claim that trafficking-like practices occur at each stage of the migration process. Many reports single out the actions of recruitment agents for particular attention. For example, the US Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report states that Indonesia’s licensed recruitment agents operate ‘similarly to trafficking rings,’ noting that they ‘routinely falsif[y] birth dates, including for children, in order to apply for passports and migrant worker documents’ (U.S. Department of State 2009: 159). The United States government also criticizes the fact that these agents keep female recruits in holding centres, sometimes for periods of many months, during which time they are not free to leave. Agents also allow women to finance migration through wage deductions after they have been deployed, a practice which the report argues creates situations of debt bondage and forced labour in the countries where they work. Not all of these practices contravene Indonesian law: indeed, post-deployment payment of recruitment fees and the use of holding centres are sanctioned by the state. However, it is clearly illegal to refuse recruits the right to leave those facilities and to falsify their personal data. Yet public officials responsible for monitoring the program seldom refer evidence of illegality to law enforcement officers, choosing instead to ignore it.

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