Fri, 11 Jun 2004

Officials say RI haven for illegal immigrants

Ridwan Max Sijabat, Jakarta

A preliminary investigation indicates that Indonesia is a safe haven for illegal immigrants who could pose a serious threat to national interests.

The investigation, recently conducted by a team from the Ministry of Manpower and Transmigration, found a number of foreigners in Jakarta and its outskirts who used fake permits to stay in the country and conduct their activities uncontrolled.

"Sidney Jones was only one of numerous foreigners abusing their stay permits in Indonesia. Our team is still coordinating with the relevant authorities, including the National Intelligence Agency (BIN), the National Police and the Immigration Office, to deport them," Director General for Labor Standards and Development Maruddin S.M. Simanihuruk told The Jakarta Post on Thursday.

Jones, the director of the International Crisis Group in Southeast Asia, was deported because she was allegedly abusing her stay permit.

Her frequent trips to conflict areas in Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam and Papua violated her permit, which allowed Jones to work in Jakarta as a trainer, Simanihuruk said.

The expulsion of Jones has been criticized by rights activists and prodemocracy figures, who say the move resembled the practices of the authoritarian New Order regime. Analysts have said Jones' deportation could backfire on President Megawati Soekarnoputri, who is seeking a full five-year mandate in the July 5 presidential election.

Simanihuruk said the authorities would not stop with Jones, and many other foreigners staying illegally in the country would be deported.

He said those foreigners targeted for deportation included a Norwegian who used a fake permit to work in Jakarta, six Nigerians employed at a garment kiosk in the Tanah Abang shopping center without work permits and five others -- an Australian, two Filipinos and a Briton -- who did not have stay or work permits.

"Some of them have been involved in territorial surveillance and surveys, two activities that should be conducted only by government agencies," he said, adding that his office had officially reported the cases to the BIN and other security authorities.

Simanihuruk said that despite a decline in the number of documented expatriates in the country, the real number of foreigners working here was probably higher because many foreigners were believed to be here illegally.

"The number of expatriates registered by the ministry went down to about 19,000 in 2003 from 50,000 in 2000 and 78,000 in 1996, but many expatriates living in Kemang, South Jakarta, and those employed at entertainment centers in Jakarta's downtown do not have stay permits," he said, adding that this was also probably the case in Batam, Riau, Bali, Yogyakarta and Surabaya.

He acknowledged that the relevant authorities lacked coordination in monitoring the presence of foreigners, including suspected terrorists, in the country.

He said that in addition to the two Malaysian terrorist suspects Dr. Azahari and Noordin Moch. Top, the alleged masterminds of the JW Marriott Hotel bombing in Jakarta last August, many other foreigners who were members of the Jamaah Islamiyah terrorist group were believed to have operated in Indonesia undetected.