Discretion and the trafficking-like practices of the Indonesian state

Wayne Palmer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Observers of Indonesia’s formal labour export programme claim that traffickinglike 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’ (US 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. In addition, agents 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 programme seldom refer evidence of illegality to law enforcement officers, choosing instead to ignore it.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLabour Migration and Human Trafficking in Southeast Asia
Subtitle of host publicationCritical Perspectives
EditorsMichael Ford, Lenore Lyons, Willem van Schendel
Place of PublicationAbingdon UK
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9780203121535
ISBN (Print)9780415665636
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

NameRoutledge Contemporary Southeast Asia Series
  • Inside Indonesia (Journal)

    Michele Ford (Guest editor) & Wayne Palmer (Guest editor)


    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesEditorial responsibility

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