JAKARTA, INDONESIA – Nine Indonesian survivors received justice after their three traffickers were convicted of human trafficking for forced labor in cyber-scamming by a District Court in Batam, Indonesia.
Cyber scam slavery has become a severe problem in Asia and across the world. Thousands of people have been lured by social media ads promising high-paying jobs in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and the Philippines, which later turn out to be work conducting online scams, targeting victims worldwide with bogus romance or investment opportunities.
With the brokers’ false promises, the nine survivors were trafficked to Cambodia in early 2022. Their employers took away their passport, ID and did not allow them to leave their compound. The survivors were forced to create fake social media profiles and target wealthy, older people from different countries to invest in cryptocurrency. Some of the survivors were even physically punished for not meeting their targets.
IJM Cambodia, together with the Cambodian National Police, managed to rescue the survivors from the building after several months of being held there, based on a report from a family member of one of the victims. With the support of the Indonesian Embassy in Cambodia, the nine survivors were repatriated back to Indonesia in July 2022. Three perpetrators were subsequently arrested and went on trial in Nov 2022 after the report to the police made by the Indonesian Embassy.
Holding perpetrators accountable for cyber slavery
Moris*, one of the survivors who now works for a small furniture company, said that he is satisfied with the court’s verdict of three to four years imprisonment for the traffickers and an order to pay restitution to all survivors.
"I hope the perpetrators get the punishment they deserve because they have committed crimes against us. I really hope for restitution, because my wife will soon give birth and we need money for baby expenses, so I really depend on this restitution because I did not receive any salary when I worked in Cambodia. Last, I hope that there will be no more labor and forced labor crimes like this to happen in Indonesia." he said.
Elizabeth Chicha, a lawyer from a local law firm that partnered with IJM to assist the survivors, agreed that she was satisfied with the court’s decision.
"We respect the court's decision and are satisfied with the punishment given to the perpetrators. Since Oct. 2022, we have provided legal assistance for survivors. We hope that the survivors can receive and get restitution. Also, we hope that with this incident, the survivors and all people in Indonesia, especially in Batam, will be aware of human trafficking and be careful when getting a job offer abroad," she said.
"IJM believes that criminal accountability is relevant to eradicate this crime, so we commend the Indonesian government and our partners for their commitment and relentless efforts in the fight against human trafficking in cyber scamming," says Andrey Sawchenko, IJM Vice President of Forced Labor Slavery Program in Asia Pacific.
“Essentially, proper victim identification and social service provision has to be a core component of any protection effort to remove individuals,” Sawchenko added.