Experiences of trafficked persons: An Indonesian sample

Foreword | The true extent of people trafficking is difficult to gauge, in part because of low levels of reporting and identification of trafficked persons, the clandestine nature of the crime, and a lack of reliable data and systematic data collections, The data collected by the International Organization for Migration in its Counter Trafficking Module Database is unique in the breadth and depth of information collected regarding the experiences of trafficked persons.

The IOM Indonesia CTM database holds information relating to 3,701 trafficked Indonesians between January 2005 and January 2010. In this paper, the experiences of this group of trafficked persons is compared and contrasted against the existing literature in order to strengthen knowledge about the nature of people trafficking in the southeast Asian region.

Adam Tomison



Much has been written about the paucity of data on trafficking in persons, including barriers to collecting information and the lack of reliable and standardised collection methodologies. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has sought to address this through the development of the Counter Trafficking Module (CTM) Database. In 1999, IOM developed and implemented the CTM, which is the largest global database of its kind, containing primary data on victims of trafficking. The CTM facilitates the management of IOM’s direct assistance work, specifically the Return, Recovery and Reintegration Program. In doing so, it maps the trafficking experience of victims and contains a wealth of information regarding the characteristics and histories of trafficked persons, the nature of the trafficking process (including recruitment and transportation methods), patterns of exploitation and abuse, instances of re-trafficking and the nature of assistance provided by IOM. As such, it strengthens the research capacity and knowledge about the causes, processes, trends and consequences of trafficking.

At a global level, IOM has provided assistance to more than 20,000 trafficked persons from over 85 different nationalities trafficked to more than 100 destination countries. Given that the majority of persons trafficked into Australia are known to originate from southeast Asia, examining trafficking patterns in this region will provide valuable insight for more targeted government responses. To this end, the Australian Institute of Criminology has worked collaboratively with IOM Indonesia to analyse the CTM Indonesia database. This is the first of four papers arising from that analysis.

In this paper, the literature regarding trafficking trends and processes in southeast Asia is examined (with a focus on Indonesia) and compares this with an analysis of the IOM Indonesia CTM database. Other papers in the series will examine the support needs of trafficked persons, barriers to involvement in criminal justice proceedings and the experiences of Indonesians trafficked for domestic service, who make up a large proportion of victims in the CTM Indonesia database.


Box 1

Definition of trafficking in persons

Trafficking in persons is defined in Article 3a of the United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children as:

the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.


The Indonesian sample

The IOM Indonesia CTM database holds qualitative and quantitative information relating to 3,701 trafficked Indonesians (1 person was Cambodian by nationality) identified between January 2005 and January 2010. Among this group, Javanese was the most common ethnicity (35%; n=1,300), followed by Sundanese (19%; n=716). The overwhelming majority of trafficked persons were female (90%; n=3,343).

Most trafficked persons were aged 18 to 24 years (34%; n=1,256), followed by those aged 25 to 34 years (26%; n=977). Almost one in four were children aged less than 18 years (24%; n=887).

Half (50%; n=1,863) of the sample identified their marital status as single, followed by those who were married (28%; n=1,053). The largest proportion (39%; n=1,445) identified elementary schooling as their highest level of education. Prior to having been trafficked, most (30%; n=1,093) had been employed as domestic workers and the overwhelming majority nominated economic problems/job seeking as their primary reason for leaving their home village (88%; n=3,263). Selected demographic characteristics are presented in Table 1.

Table 1: Select characteristics of IOM sample
  n %
Female 3,343 90
Male 358 10
Age (yrs)
less than 18 887 24
18–24 1,256 34
25–34 977 26
35–44 473 13
45–65 108 3
Marital statusa
Separated/divorced 535 15
Married 1,053 28
Single 1,863 50
Widow(er) 202 5
No school 1,007 27
Elementary 1,445 39
Junior High 873 24
Senior High 360 10
University/diploma 16 0.4

a: Marital status is missing for 48 cases

Note: Percentages may not total 100 due to rounding

Source: AIC, IOM Indonesia CTM dataset [computer file]

Migration, labour exploitation and trafficking in southeast Asia

There is significant migration within and out of the southeast Asian region that is influenced by a range of factors, but a specific motivator is the desire for better work (and life) opportunities (Joudo Larsen 2010). Migrants are known to travel via both regular and irregular pathways (Joudo Larsen, Lindley & Putt 2009; UNODC 2009). Where migration is via irregular means, migrants may be particularly vulnerable to exploitative labour due to their illegal work status in the destination country. Such exploitative labour is not necessarily people trafficking (see definition in Box 1), where trafficking exists at the extreme end of a spectrum of exploitative labour practices. Instead, lesser forms of exploitation may be precursors to trafficking and therefore should be considered in the discourse of trafficking (David 2010). Countries in the southeast Asian region have been identified as origin, transit and destination countries for trafficking, with victims being trafficked domestically, trans-regionally and intra-regionally (UNODC 2009).

Southeast Asians are known to be exploited in the fishing, logging, construction, agriculture and commercial sex industries, as well as through work in factories, plantations and as domestic workers in private homes or businesses (Joudo Larsen 2010; UNODC 2009; US Department of State 2012). The type of work for which Indonesians in the IOM sample were trafficked is illustrative of this diversity; jobs in the final destination country included domestic service, sex work, shopkeeping, waitressing, dancing and factory work, among several others (see Figure 1).


Figure 1: Type of work undertaken by Indonesian victims of trafficking in final destination country (n) [see attached PDF for bar chart]

Trafficking of Indonesians

Indonesia has been identified as a key source of trafficked persons in the southeast Asia region, much of which occurs in the context of labour migration and is often undocumented (IOM 2011; Joudo Larsen 2010). Indonesians are known to be trafficked both domestically and transnationally. Trafficking in persons has been identified as an issue of concern across Indonesia’s 33 provinces, with the most significant source areas being Java, West Kalimantan, Lampung, North Sumatra and South Sumatra (US Department of State 2010). Almost half of the trafficked Indonesians in the IOM data identified Java as their home province (46%; n=1,714). The next largest group originated from West Kalimantan (20%; n=722), followed by North Sumatra (7%; n=254) with smaller proportions identifying West Nusa Tenggara (6%; n=237), Lampung (5%; 189) and others as their home province.

Although domestic trafficking has been identified as an issue within Indonesia, as well as other southeast Asian countries (ARTIP 2010; UNODC 2009), there is limited empirical research available on the topic. Analysis of IOM Indonesia data sheds some light on this, with 18 percent (n=686) of the sample having been trafficked within Indonesia. There was no difference in the proportion of males and females trafficked domestically (18% cf 19%, respectively), although slightly more children than adults were trafficked domestically (53% cf 47%).

The most common destination for persons trafficked within Indonesia was the Riau Islands province (22%; n=149), followed by North Sumatra (21%; n=143) and East Java (20%; n=137). The city of Batam in the Riau Islands province was the most common destination among cities; it was the final destination for 16 percent of persons trafficked within Indonesia (n=112).

Analysis of the IOM Indonesia data confirms that the majority of trafficked Indonesians found themselves in Malaysia (76%; n=2,800). Of those trafficked transnationally, Malaysia was the destination for 93 percent (n=2,800; see Table 2) and similar proportions of both males and females were trafficked to Malaysia (75% cf 78%, respectively). The next largest destination country was Saudi Arabia, with two percent (n=64) of Indonesians trafficked there, with Middle Eastern countries the destination for four percent (n=124) of all Indonesians trafficked transnationally.

Type of exploitation

Analysis of the IOM Indonesia data indicated that the vast majority of Indonesians who were trafficked transnationally worked in non-sex industry sectors at the final destination (89%; n=2,696), compared with 11 percent who were trafficked into the sex industry (n=319). For those trafficked within Indonesia, a greater proportion of persons were trafficked into the sex industry (40%; n=274) compared with persons trafficked transnationally.

Labour exploitation

Widespread labour migration within the southeast Asian region suggests the potential for extensive labour exploitation and trafficking, and this problem is exacerbated during periods of seasonal labour migration (ARTIP 2010). The International Labour Organization has identified labour exploitation and trafficking as having a significant impact on migrants from the Greater Mekong Sub-Region working in agriculture, fishing, manufacturing and domestic services (Pearson et al. 2006).

In Indonesia, a significant proportion of the population resides and works outside the country—the US Department of State (2012) estimate as many as six million people—and it is estimated that nearly 70 percent of these people are women. Many Indonesian migrant workers face conditions of forced labour and debt bondage, and as analysis of the IOM Indonesia data has shown, are vulnerable to trafficking, particularly in developed Asian countries and the Middle East, including Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Japan, Kuwait, Syria, and Iraq (US Department of State 2012; see Table 2).

As a key source country for migrant labour, the Indonesian Government established the National Board for Placement and Protection of Indonesian Overseas workers (BNP2TKI) in response to concerns regarding the exploitation of Indonesians working overseas. Article 4 of Law number 21 on the Eradication of the Criminal Act of Trafficking in Persons specifies that the removal of an Indonesian citizen from the country for the purpose of exploiting that person is an offence punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of IDR600m.

Table 2: Trafficked Indonesians by destination Country (%)
Country of final destination Labour exploitation Sexual exploitation Total
Malaysia 93.2 89.7 92.9
Saudi Arabia 2.4   2.1
Singapore 1.0 0.3 0.9
Japan 0.1 7.8 0.9
Kuwait 0.7   0.7
Syria 0.4   0.4
Iraq 0.3   0.3
Jordan 0.3   0.3
Suriname 0.3   0.3
Mauritius 0.3   0.2
Taiwan, Province of China 0.2 0.3 0.2
Macau 0.1   0.1
Thailand 0.1   0.1
Other 0.4 1.9 0.6
Total (n=2,696) (n=319) (n=3,015)

Note: ‘Other’ includes United Arab Emirates, Brunei Darusaalam, East Timor, Hong Kong, Qatar, Oman, Turkey and the United States of America. Percentages may not total 100 due to rounding

Source: AIC, IOM Indonesia CTM dataset [computer file]

A significant number of Indonesian migrant workers find employment in Malaysia, both legally and illegally. The Malaysian Government reports that Indonesians account for more than half of the foreign labour force in Malaysia (Ministry of Finance Malaysia 2010). The US Department of State (2012) reports that approximately 2.6 million Indonesians are employed in Malaysia in a variety of industries, including the agriculture, mining, fishing and commercial sex industries, and as domestic workers. A considerable number of Indonesians are also known to work in the construction industry in Malaysia (Narayanan & Lai 2005). Many of these workers report being subjected to exploitation (Indonesian Government personal communication April 2008; US Department of State 2012). There are also reports of Indonesian female domestic workers—many of whom are working in Malaysia illegally—suffering abuse at the hands of employers (Araffin 2001; Andrevski & Lyneham forthcoming; Killias 2010). Of those Indonesians who were trafficked transnationally for labour exploitation, 93 percent (n=2,514) were trafficked to Malaysia and many reported being subjected to a range of abuses (Lyneham & Joudo Larsen 2013).

Further, there are an estimated 1.5 million Indonesians employed throughout the Middle East—the majority as domestic workers (Migration Dialogue 2008)—many of whom are reportedly subjected to extremely poor working conditions and exploitation (Indonesian Government personal communication April 2008). Recently, for example, there have been reports of Indonesian migrant workers in Saudi Arabia being subject to severe forms of abuse and exploitation (Amnesty International 2010).

Women and girls comprise a significant proportion of southeast Asian migrants who are exploited as domestic workers, with Indonesia a key source country due largely to the increase in migration flows of Indonesian women (Derks 2000; IOM 2011). Analysis of data collected by IOM Indonesia confirms this finding. Over half of Indonesians who were trafficked worked as a domestic worker in the final destination country (56%; n=2,080; see Figure 1). Of this number, almost all were female (99.8%; n=2,075) and a greater proportion of women were trafficked transnationally for domestic service (73%; n=1,992) compared with women trafficked within Indonesia (13%; n=83). Children represented 14 percent (n=299) of all Indonesians trafficked for domestic service, with girls comprising the overwhelming majority of this group (98%; n=294).

Pearson et al. (2006) found that trafficking for the purpose of domestic service is particularly problematic as exploitation tends to take place within the confines of a private home. Exploitation can include forced labour, long work hours without any break, confiscation of travel and other documents, withholding of wages, restriction of movement, unrealistic workloads and physical, sexual and/or psychological abuse—with limited external scrutiny. Further, significant debt can be incurred by migrating, which can leave people subject to debt bondage.

In Indonesia, Law No. 39 of 2004 on the Placement and Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers Abroad mandates that unskilled domestic workers awaiting documentation must spend time in a residential pre-departure training facility (Andrevski & Lyneham forthcoming). It is at this early stage of the migration process that exploitation has been seen to first occur. Women have been known to remain in the facilities for up to six months, where they are expected to engage in domestic labour as ‘training’ without remuneration (Human Rights Watch 2004; IOM 2010), Women are reportedly subject to restricted movement and as many of the facilities are locked, women are unable to leave. Reports also suggest that women are subject to both physical and psychological abuse while in the training facilities (Andrevski & Lyneham forthcoming; Human Rights Watch 2004; IOM 2010). While it is unclear whether such treatment pertains to people trafficking, it is clear that women in these facilities are subject to both exploitative labour and a violation of human rights.

The risks and vulnerabilities experienced by female migrant workers have prompted the Indonesian Government to intervene. The Indonesian Government imposed a ban on the certification of additional Indonesian female migrants traveling to Saudi Arabia and Jordan (US Department of State 2011). In addition, a two year moratorium was placed on Indonesian women travelling to Malaysia to work as domestic workers after an existing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) lapsed in 2009 and the countries were unable to reach agreement on a new MoU (Andrevski & Lyneham forthcoming). Following lengthy negotiations, a new MoU was signed by both countries in December 2011 (US Department of State 2012). Such actions are important given the evidence of trafficking occurring within the context of Indonesians working in Malaysia and the Middle East.

Sexual exploitation

Research suggests that a substantial number of identified trafficking cases within the region involve victims trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation. However, international literature does suggest that trafficking for the purpose of labour exploitation may be less easily detected than trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation (UNODC 2009). It has been estimated that labour trafficking is potentially significantly more extensive than recorded numbers suggest (ILO 2005; Joudo Larsen, Lindley & Putt 2009), which is supported by the IOM Indonesia data, where a larger proportion of the sample were reported as having been trafficked for labour exploitation rather than sexual exploitation.

Trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation has been identified as affecting many of the countries within the southeast Asian region. While Thailand has been identified as a prominent origin, transit and destination country for trafficking in persons (UNODC 2009), the sexual exploitation and trafficking of Indonesian women is also of concern due to the size of the Indonesian female migrant population working overseas (Derks 2000; US Department of State 2012).

It is estimated that 69 percent of overseas workers from Indonesia are female (US Department of State 2012). Reports have indicated that Indonesian women who migrate to Malaysia, Taiwan and the Middle East have been subject to forced prostitution (US Department of State 2012); there have also been reports of traffickers kidnapping victims to force them into prostitution in the sex trade both within Indonesia and abroad (US Department of State 2011). Yet, only 16 percent of respondents in the IOM sample were trafficked into the sex industry (see Figure 1), all of whom were female (n=593). Girls comprised 35 percent (n=205) of this group. This suggests that despite common perceptions that trafficking of women and girls into the sex industry is prolific in the region, it represents only a small proportion of the total number of women trafficked.

Indonesia has also been identified as a destination country for victims trafficked for sexual purposes (US Department of State 2012) and reports indicate that victims from China, Thailand, Latin America, Central Asia and Eastern Europe are trafficked into Indonesia to work in the sex industry. The sexual exploitation of women trafficked domestically within Indonesia is also of concern and this is borne out in the IOM Indonesia data, with a large proportion (40%; n=274) of persons trafficked domestically reported as being exploited within the sex industry.

Research has found that women trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation can be subject to different types of exploitation that can include debt bondage, poor working and living conditions, physical, sexual and psychological abuse, restricted movement, confiscation of passports, the withholding of wages and an inability to refuse customers (ILO 2009). Prior to commencing work, some victims are aware that they will be working in the sex industry but are deceived about the conditions of their employment. Others are told they will be working in factories or as domestic workers and are then coerced into working in the sex industry (ARTIP 2010).

Trafficking of children

A recent report by UNICEF (2009) identified child trafficking as being of concern within the southeast Asian region, with children being trafficked in the region for the purposes of labour exploitation, sexual exploitation, forced marriage, criminal activities, armed conflict, adoption and begging. The most commonly reported form of trafficking in children, like adults, is trafficking for the purpose of sexual exploitation (UNICEF 2009), although significantly, this was not borne out in the IOM Indonesia data.

As noted earlier, analysis of the IOM Indonesia dataset indicated that almost one in four trafficked persons were children. Among this group of Indonesian children, the vast majority were female (83%; n=739) and most children were aged between 15 and 17 years (98%; n=704). While the vast majority of trafficked adults in the sample were trafficked internationally (91%; n=233), the proportion of children trafficked internationally was only marginally higher than those trafficked within Indonesia (59% cf 41%, respectively). Most children were trafficked for domestic work (40%; n=357) followed by waitressing (16%; n=139). Most male children were trafficked for work in plantations (29%; n=43), while female children were most often trafficked for domestic work (48%; n=356). This is congruent with US analyses of Indonesian child trafficking, which identified transnational and domestic trafficking for the purposes of domestic servitude, forced prostitution and cottage industries (US Department of State 2012).

There is no single reason why children are trafficked but instead, there are a range of factors which when compounded make certain children vulnerable to being trafficked. These include individual factors such as life experiences, skills, knowledge, personal documentation and the physical environment in which the individual child lives, such as experiences of violence or abuse and homelessness, family-related factors such as abuse, or cultural practices that allow parents strong control over children. Socio-economic factors can include poverty, unemployment and lack of education (UNICEF 2009).

Other factors that contribute to vulnerability include cultural practices such as the marriage of young girls, as well as a lack of birth registration, which is particularly problematic in rural areas or among hill tribe populations (Joudo Larsen 2011). Demand for child trafficking is driven by a demand for cheap or exploitable labour, sex with children, adoption outside of legal channels and marriage (UNICEF 2009). Reports indicate that some of the conditions child victims are subject to include long hours, confiscation of earnings, beatings, threats of violence and fear of arrest (ARTIP 2010).

Children are particularly vulnerable to trafficking in Indonesia, as a significant number of children under the age of five years do not have official birth certificates (US Department of State 2012). Recruitment of Indonesian girls through social networking websites has been noted as an increasing problem (US Department of State 2012). Natural disasters have also been identified as increasing the risks of exploitation and harm of children. For example, children orphaned following the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 have been trafficked domestically for child labour (IDLO 2008) or illegal adoptions (Joudo Larsen et al. 2012).

The trafficking process

The IOM Indonesia CTM database also contains a wealth of information regarding the process of trafficking including methods of recruitment, types of promised work and conditions, and actual work and conditions (including salary at the destination and forms of movement). This section summarises the data available in each of these areas.

Recruitment and reasons for leaving

Trafficking and other forms of exploitation in the southeast Asian region are known to occur within existing migratory pathways, primarily driven by the desire for greater economic opportunity, with the majority of persons using the services of a broker or agent in facilitating migration and employment (Joudo Larsen 2010; IOM 2011). This finds support in the IOM data, with 88 percent (n=3,263) of trafficked persons in the sample identifying economic problems and/or job seeking as their reason for leaving their home village. The majority of both males and females were recruited through agents (74% n=264 and 65% n=2,189, respectively). Similarly, both adults (69%, n=1,933) and children (59%, n=520) were primarily recruited by agents.

More than one in four trafficked persons in the sample were recruited through informal networks. This included partners, neighbours, family members, friends and acquaintances. Among this group, males were significantly more likely than females to have been recruited by a family member (37% cf 21%; c2=7.3 p<.01) or a friend (42% cf 25%; c2=5.7 p<.05). Females were significantly more likely than males to have been recruited by a neighbour (30% cf 5%; c2=13.6 p<.01). Children were significantly more likely than adults to be recruited by a family member (14% cf 6%; c2=49.2 p<.01).The majority of males and females in the dataset had not been transported against their will (males 75% n=269; females 73% n=2,433), which supports the notion in the literature that most trafficking in this region begins with the voluntary movement of people, primarily for economic reasons (Joudo Larsen, Lindley & Putt 2009).

In fact, economic problems were nominated by the vast majority of trafficked persons as the reason for leaving their home village. Similar proportions of males and females nominated economic problems (82% n=303 and 80% n=2,960, respectively). Although small in number, significantly more men than women nominated education problems as their reason for leaving (7% cf 0.45%; c2=127.18 p<.01).

Travel and documents

Most trafficked Indonesians (74%; n=2,726) crossed the border at an official entry point. An entry visa was only required in half (n=1,861) of the cases and exit visas were only required for 26 percent (n=957) of those in the dataset.

The majority (82%; n=3,038) had a passport/travel papers when crossing the border, although 44 percent (n=1,620) were actually travelling using forged documents. Far more women than men had travel documents (85% cf 55%; c2=42.5 p<.01). Children were less likely to have travel documents than adults (61% cf 92%; c2=43.5 p<.01). Similar proportions of adults and children entered using forged documents (51% cf 46%), although females were significantly more likely than males to enter using forged documents among both adults (48% cf 26%; c2=15.1 p<.01) and children (54% cf 26%; c2=9.9 p<.01).

Type of work, salary and conditions

The majority of trafficked persons (67%; n=2,496) began work within one week of arriving at their destination. Most females were promised domestic work (n=2,086) and almost all found themselves in this type of work (n=2,075). Conversely, many of those promised factory jobs, nanny/babysitting positions, shopkeeper and waitressing positions did not find themselves in these positions. While only 43 women (1%) were promised sex work, 593 trafficked persons (16%) found themselves in this type of work at the destination, all of whom were female. Information regarding both promised and actual salary was available in 391 cases (see Figure 2). Of these cases, while most had been promised a salary between US$100 and US$199 per month (48%, n=164), the proportion who actually received this amount was far fewer (28%; n=97). At the higher end, there was no significant difference between those promised US$1,000 (n=14) or more and those who received this amount (n=12). Fifty-three percent (n=180) actually received more than was originally promised. When type of work at the final destination was examined, 50 percent (n=90) of trafficked persons who received a higher salary than they were originally promised were domestic workers.

IOM also asked trafficked returnees whether they fell victim to either full or partial deprivation of wages. Analysis of the available data revealed that the vast majority of trafficked Indonesians had all their wages withheld (71%; n=2,616). This was followed by a further 15 percent (n=562) who had part of their wages withheld. Proportionally, women were far more likely than men to have all their wages withheld (74% cf 41%). A further 13 percent of women and 32 percent of men had part of their wages withheld.

Over half (59%, n=2,179) owed a debt to their employer and it would follow that the vast majority of those who were deprived of wages would fall into this group. This is reflected in the data, with 76 percent (n=1,662) of persons who were deprived of all their wages owing a debt to their employer. Where the information was available on the reason for the debt (n=2,115), 45 percent (n=950) owed money for a recruitment fee, 30% (n=643) for transportation and smaller proportions for documentation (8%), lodging (7%), food (2%) and other expenses (8%).


Figure 2: Promised versus actual salary in USD (n) [see attached PDF for bar chart]

Most trafficked workers did not have fixed working hours (92%; n=3,395), with slightly more men than women in this situation (13% cf 8%, respectively). This is most likely due to the fact that most women found themselves in domestic service, which due to the nature of the employment, is less likely to involve set hours of work.

In terms of additional work conditions and benefits, employers promised a day off (5%; n=176), a vacation (1%; n=47), medical benefits (0.5%; n=21), that the cost of their food would be covered (4%; n=133) and board (3%; n=103). However, very few offered a transportation allowance (n=11) and even fewer (n=50) were promised life insurance.

Thirty-eight percent (n=1,408) signed an employment contract prior to leaving home and 15 percent (n=582) paid money to the recruiter in advance. While very few people paid more than US$1,000 (n=8), it is important to note that some very high amounts were involved in four of the cases—US$10,417, US$11,111, US$43,103 and US$52,500—and of these, all experienced either full or partial deprivation of wages that would lead to an entrenched debt bondage situation.


The IOM CTM is the largest global database that contains primary data on victims of trafficking. Given that the southeast Asian region is known to be a significant source of trafficked persons, (ASEAN 2011; Joudo Larsen 2010; UNODC 2009) and that empirical data relating to trafficking is limited, analysis of the CTM provides a unique insight into the nature and extent of trafficking in persons in the southeast Asian region.

An exploration of the IOM CTM data revealed a number of interesting findings that were consistent with relevant literature:

  • almost one in five of the trafficked persons in the IOM sample were trafficked within Indonesia. Of this group, two in five worked as sex workers at the final destination;
  • almost one in four trafficked persons were children. The majority were female and aged between 15 and 17 years; and
  • children were more likely than adults in the sample to be trafficked within Indonesia.

However, and rather significantly, analysis of IOM data revealed that women and children trafficked into the sex industry represent only a small number of the total. In fact, women and children were considerably more likely to be trafficked into industries other than the sex industry, which contradicts some of the relevant literature (UNODC 2009). It is possible that this is due to an increased understanding and acceptance regionally of trafficking into industries other than the sex industry, both among trafficked people and service providers.

The lack of reliable statistics on people trafficking makes it a challenge to develop evidence-based responses. Data such as that collected by the IOM in Indonesia adds great value to research on trafficking in persons and increases knowledge about the causes, processes, and nature of and impact of trafficking. However, analysis of the IOM Indonesia CTM dataset also illustrates the need for more reliable and standardised data collection in other countries to better inform anti-trafficking efforts. The AIC is currently investigating the development of a national minimum dataset to improve knowledge of people trafficking in Australia.


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About the authors

Hannah Andrevski is a former research officer at the Australian Institute of Criminology.

Jacqueline Joudo Larsen is a principal research analyst in the Violent and Serious Crime Monitoring Program at the Australian Institute of Criminology and former manager of the Trafficking in Persons Research Program.

Samantha Lyneham is a research analyst working within the AIC’s Trafficking in Persons Research Program.