Defense Ministry to Probe Refugee Trafficking

By webadmin on 11:14 pm Feb 28, 2010
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Markus Junianto Sihaloho & Antara

The Defense Ministry is investigating reports of misconduct by three of its personnel who allegedly used defense vehicles as part of a people-smuggling operation.

Defense Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. I Wayan Widhi said police detained the personnel after catching them transporting refugees in a military bus in Sukabumi, West Java, on Saturday.

“The preliminary results of the investigation indicate that the three drivers, including two military personnel and a civil servant, did not have permission to use the vehicles outside of office hours,” he said.

Wayan said the buses could only be used during work hours for transporting military officers or ministry officials.

“If used outside such hours, then permission must be secured first,” he said, adding that the military would investigate further.

“We also reported this case to the superiors of each of the three suspects, who have the right to directly punish them,” he added.

Sukabumi Police Chief Adj. Senior Comr. Herukoco on Saturday said police had intercepted the Defense Ministry bus as it passed through Warungkiara on the way from Sukabumi to Ujunggenteng district on Java’s south coast.

Herukoco said it was believed the suspects were planning to smuggle 93 people to Australia from a remote location in Ujunggenteng.

“On the Ujunggenteng coast there are indeed many spots from which it is relatively easy to smuggle goods or humans to other countries,” Herukoco said.

The suspects were only identified by their initials: M, B and S.

“We do not know yet if they will be held in Sukabumi or at the National Police headquarters,” in Jakarta, he added.

Herukoco said the refugees, who were mainly Afghans and Iranians, were believed to be in the country illegally and would be processed under the 1992 law on immigration.

They were taken to the local immigration office in Sukabumi to be questioned before being handed over to the Directorate General for Immigration for further processing.

Two of the Iranians reportedly held Indonesian tourist visas, while almost all of the Afghans carried documents from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The group also included four women and three children.

The head of supervision at Sukabumi’s immigration office, Mirwan, on Saturday said he was still waiting for senior officials from the directorate general to come supervise the group.

“We have no place to accommodate them here,” he said. “They will have to be taken to the directorate general’s detention center in Kalideres, West Jakarta.”

Armed Forces (TNI) spokesman Air Vice Marshal Sagom Tamboen said the military would follow the case closely.

“We will look deeper into the case first before making further statements,” he said.

The Defense Ministry is coordinating with the military’s police unit and Strategic Intelligence Body (BAIS) to uncover the motive behind the incident and to uncover the possible network involved in the alleged people-smuggling operation.