Child trafficking still going strong in Aceh, Nias

Monday, December 19, 2005
By nias

Monday, December 19, 2005 Apriadi Gunawan, The Jakarta Post, Medan

A non-governmental organization (NGO) has reported that child trafficking and illegal adoptions were continuing in the tsunami-ravaged areas of Aceh and Nias.

Several children of the tsunami were found to have been sold to irresponsible parties in Malaysia, while very young victims of the earthquake in Nias had been illegally adopted by people in Medan, Jakarta and Bandung, said an official with the Center for Child Protection and Study (PKPA).

The executive director with PKPA, Achmad Sofian, said on Saturday that child trafficking and illegal adoptions were revealed by a study conducted by his NGO recently.

Sofian explained that they had found two cases of Acehnese children sold to irresponsible people in Malaysia. The first case concerned a girl child identified only as I.R., a Lhokseumawe resident, who was locked up in Binjai, North Sumatra about two months ago. The case became public after the child was able to escape when members of the trafficking syndicate left the house to arrange for her passport. The second case was of 16-year-old identified as S., an Aceh Besar resident. The girl was able to escape when the syndicated members were trying to get her out of Aceh by bus.

At first, the victim did not suspect the syndicate members because she apparently knew them before and they told her that she would be employed as a domestic helper. But, later she learned that the syndicate planned to sell her to their colleagues in Malaysia. She managed to escape when the bus stopped in Langsa, East Aceh.

Sofian said the first victim had been returned to her family in Lhokseumawe while the second had been made adopted by a government official in Langsa.

Based on the findings, members of the NGO went to Malaysia in order to investigate child trafficking and they found that in several places in the neighboring country, Acehnese teens who had survived the tsunami were found working in restaurants.

The youngsters actually are not supposed to be working in restaurants as they are below 21, the minimum age requirement in Malaysia, said Sofian.

"After further investigation, we found that many of their birth certificates had been forged to make them eligible. In the passports, their ages were changed so that they could enter Malaysia for work," said Sofian.

The NGO was studying whether the teens were also employed as prostitutes in Malaysia.

Meanwhile, Sofian also said that besides child trafficking, the NGO had also found that children in Nias had been adopted illegally. Sofian said according to data gathered by the NGO between March and November this year, 72 children from Nias between the ages of four and 12, had been illegally adopted.

Sofian explained that the cases of illegal adoption began when people claiming to be from an orphanage in Medan offered Nias parents the "opportunity" to have their children adopted by rich families in Medan. They also promised that the children would go to good schools be treated well. But, later on, the parents found out that it was all a scam and to this day have not seen their children. The children had gone missing along with the people claiming to represent the orphanage.

"We probed the cases and we found that some children had been adopted by people in Medan, Jakarta and Bandung," said Sofian.

He said the child trafficking and illegal adoptions had been reported to police.

Spokesman for the North Sumatra Police Sr. Comr. Bambang Prihady said officers were investigating the cases.

Child trafficking, and allegations and rumors of it, began to emerge after the tsunami last December, which left thousands homeless and/or orphaned. The tsunami triggered by a monster earthquake swept Aceh coastal areas on Dec. 26 and killed some 130,000 people in Aceh only. Four months later, another monster earthquake rocked Nias island, killing thousands.

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December 2005