Refugees camping out on the sidewalks in Central Jakarta last month. (Antara Photos/M. Risyal Hidayat)

Underage Asylum Seekers Arrested in Jakarta Prostitution Sting


AUGUST 02, 2019

Jakarta. Immigration officers say two teenage asylum seekers from Afghanistan have been caught in a prostitution bust in Central Jakarta. The Afghan boys were found in a state of undress together with two Indonesian women in a rented room in Sawah Besar on Wednesday. Used contraceptives were also found in the room. 

"We found both used and unused contraceptives, condoms, in the room. We are still looking into the case to find out if the boys were involved in prostitution," Ruhiyat M. Tolib, the head of intelligence at the Central Jakarta Immigration Office, said on Thursday.

The two Afghan boys are currently being held at the immigration office.

"We can't process their case here but we're still trying to find out if they have been involved in prostitution," Ruhiyat said.

According to the official, this could be the first known case of asylum seekers being involved in prostitution in Indonesia.

Both the Afghan boys are underage. Known only by their initials, H. is 17 years old and S. is 15.

Ruhiyat said chat messages found on the boys' phones show they were invited by the Indonesian women to come to the rented room in Sawah Besar. 

"There was no indication of a 'transaction' in their chats, but the boys have been in contact with a lot of other older women whom they refer to as 'Ibu' [Mother] or 'Mami' [Mommy]," Ruhiyat said.

The Immigration Office has also arrested one of the women, 22-year-old R, an Indonesian citizen. The other woman found in the room was taken by the police.

The women reportedly have admitted knowing the Afghan boys for a year and that they have been having sex consensually. 

Refugees and asylum seekers are not allowed to work in Indonesia, so they often rely on help from the government or private donors to survive. 

Indonesia currently has around 14,000 refugees and asylum seekers, most of them from Afghanistan, Myanmar and Somalia. 

Many of them have been stranded in Indonesia for years while waiting for the UN Refugee Agency, the UNHCR, to resettle them. 

Indonesia is not party to the 1951 Refugee Convention but has been willingly taking in asylum seekers and refugees, most of them bound for Australia, on humanitarian grounds. 

Countries party to the convention, such as Australia and the United States, have recently changed their immigration policy to put more restrictions on accepting refugees and asylum seekers, which has prolonged their resettlement process.