Sentencing People-Smuggling Offenders in Indonesia

No 12 (2016) by Dr Antje Missbach

Against a backdrop of massive global displacement, facilitators of irregular movements (‘people smugglers’) have become a centre of attention in public discourse, which often wrongly deems them to be solely responsible for the hardship asylum seekers experience during their journeys in search for effective protection. Australia and Indonesia are at the forefront of combatting people smuggling in the Asia-Pacific region, often at the price of undermining humanitarian protection and increasing harm for asylum seekers and refugees. This Policy Paper examines the sanctions applicable to people smuggling after it was defined for the first time as a criminal offence in Indonesia, in May 2011. Based on a sample of Indonesian court decisions in 99 people smuggling cases between May 2011 and October 2015, it analyses the socio-economic profiles of offenders, including their age, gender, citizenship, origin and religion, previous employment, and their roles in people-smuggling operations. The data also provides information about charges laid against accused people smugglers and the severity of sanctions handed down by the courts. Using this data, the policy paper provides a picture of recurring patterns within people-smuggling operations in Indonesia.

Antje Missbach is a senior research fellow at Monash University. From 2012 to 2015, she was a McKenzie Postdoctoral Fellow in the Melbourne Law School. Antje’s research interests include transit migration and diaspora politics, as well as border and mobility studies. Antje studied Southeast Asian studies and anthropology at Humboldt University in Berlin and obtained a PhD from the Australian National University for a thesis about the long-distance politics of the Acehnese diaspora. In recent years, she has focused on asylum seekers in transit in Indonesia and on people-smuggling networks in Indonesia. Her latest publications include Troubled Transit: Asylum Seekers Stuck in Indonesia (2015) and Linking People: Connections and Encounters between Australians and Indonesians (with Jemma Purdey, 2015).