Asianthinker caught up with Chrisanctus Paschalis Saturnus alias Romi Pascal, the head of the NGO – Commission for Justice, Peace and Pastoral for Migrant-Itinerant People (KOMISI KEADILAN, PERDAMAIAN DAN PASTORAL MIGRAN PERANTAU) KKPPMP in Batam recently. Better known as Romi Pascal he has been involved with KKPPMP since 2010 when he first came to Batam.
Can u tell me us about the background of the NGO -KKPPMP and why you started your work In Batam ?
The Commission of Peace Justice and Migrant Pastoral (“KKPPMP”) is one of sub-units in the Catholic Church which is active in society and in the preservation of social justice. KKPPMP focuses on issues revolving around social justice, peace and migrant workers. We specifically try to address human trafficking issues in KEPRI and Batam. As such we manage the victims of human trafficking. All Catholic churches in Indonesia have a KKPPMP sub-unit within its chapter. Our head office is at KWI (Konferensi Wali Gereja Indonesia or called the Bishop’s Conference of Indonesia) in Jakarta. KPPMP in Batam was established in 1975 since the existence of Vietnamese refugees in Barelang, Batam. KKPPMP was initially active when they handled the Vietnamese refugees until the refuges returned to their own country in 1998. Afterwards, KKPPMP started to be involved in the matters of labour rights for worker, violence against women, domestic violence issues and women that were pregnant outside of marriage. In the last 15 years, KKPPMP is more focussed in human trafficking issues. We saw the need to have an active service office in Batam that would assist victims of human trafficking. Batam is noted as a cosmopolitan city where workers from other parts of Indonesia visit Batam and KEPRI so that they can find suitable employment. I have decided to choose Batam as a centre of our activities so that we can reach out to the victims that are involved in human trafficking since 2010 when I was posted here. As a result we have an office and shelter here in Batam. We try to have daily activities with our volunteers to strengthen and support our team. We manage our own administrative mattes internally.
What are some of the key programmes you offer as an NGO in Batam? Are you also involved with programmes in other areas of KEPRI ?
We want to present God’s compassion to everyone that is suffering from difficulties, troubles or injustice. We want people to understand that God helps those in difficulty and trouble. Thus, the vision and mission of KKPPMP is to become the extension of God’s hand and to present the goodness of God to all people, not just for people from a certain religion or a certain ethnicity but to anyone that is in need of assistance.
We try to provide various activities that are meant to assist victims. For instance we have various programs to assist victims of human trafficking or those involved in domestic violence or violence against children. We have programs in place that provide legal advice or assistance to victims. We provide psychological support for trauma victims be it children or women that have been traumatized by violence. We have programs in place that will help the victims return back to their normal life. We have a phase by phase approach for that and involve experts in child and women counselling. For human trafficking victims we try to provide them counselling and to assist with their repatriation back to their hometown or their homes which are normally outside of KEPRI. Many of them are victims of sex trafficking and working as sex workers. They are counselled and we assist these victims to reach out to their family members in their respective homes in Sumatra, Java or even Sulawesi. Our programs extend beyond Batam to Tanjung Pinang, Karimun and the other Riau Islands.
From where do you draw your support? Can you explain what support you get from the Conference of Churches in Indonesia or the local government ?
We actually do not in essence cooperate directly with the churches although we are under the Church. The Churches have many departments and divisions. There are internal ministry service and external ministry service. KKPPMP is part of the external ministry service which is part of their social service. However we have our own programs in place that support the social service component of the churches and our programs are independent from the churches. As such there is very little financial support from the churches. They (Churches) support us by taking us into their discussion team where we discuss about the prevention of human trafficking for instance. We are always invited to be involved. Sometimes, we are involved as their sources. For instance we are already in a relationship with the Women Empowerment Agency and Social Agency in KEPRI/Batam.
In terms of the level of cooperation with government authorities, our cooperation is limited to discussions on handling and providing solutions for human trafficking prevention. There is no cooperation in funding or other financial support from the local government. The local government has their own team that tries to address human trafficking. We are trying to coordinate the activities so that we do not repeat these initiatives.
What is the size of your organization and how are students personally involved in KKPPMP ?
The members of KKPPMP are from the local Catholic community in Batam area which consists of seven parishes. Each parish has one member of KKPPMP. There are seven parishes in Batam and as such there are a total of seven members of KKPMP plus fourteen volunteers. We do not pay them and are seen as volunteers. I act as a coordinator for the various programs and events that are held in Batam and KEPRI. As a result I also organize ad hoc gatherings between the various NGOs and at times coordinate meetings between the local NGOs and the local police authorities if there is a need to do so. We often work together with students who happen to be members of church congregations and catholic churches in Batam. It is easier for them to accept our presence in KEPRI because they are under the Catholic congregation. It is also because the church assist by talking directly to them and communicating our message to them.
What are some if the challenges you face undertaking activities related to the prevention and detecting of human trafficking ?
Our first challenge is more from the internal side of how we operate. KKPPMP is a social organization developed from the foundation of faith. If we do not have strong faith, we will become a profit-minded organization. It is not easy to ask people to join without any “profit-motivation”. Hence this is considered one of our challenges where we need to be a non-profit organization.
Our second challenge is that we always deal with people who do not want to be disturbed in their life. Crimes become more and more prevalent and criminals are getting more bolder and sophisticated especially in Batam. While the way for us to handle crime in Batam is still considered to be using traditional methods. It’s a fact that human trafficking criminals are getting more sophisticated using various modus operandi. It’s getting harder to detect and identify such groups. We are facing increasing difficulty.
Our third challenge is about trafficking issues which have not been properly handled. We found that law enforcers do not work well and in fact some of them are themselves involved and are part of the human trafficking system themselves. Some of them are even backed up by criminal gangs. It appears that there is a deliberate omission by the law enforcers against such crimes. Therefore such crimes are always there and it would be difficult to monitor and prevent them as they never stop.
We have found that once we eradicate these crimes there are many people that would benefit by these criminal acts and it would be difficult to resolve these issues in a meaningful manner. We want to be part of the solution but they appear to be insurmountable at times. Hopefully by working with more NGOs and coordinating our efforts human trafficking can become a thing of the past.
What are some of the success stories of KKPPMP in Batam ?
The most memorable and successful case that we handled was a human trafficking case back in 2014. At the time, we found as many as 23 victims. We had to go through a very tough process in screening these victims. We even faced pressures and intimidation from criminal groups that are known as the local mafia. Although the main perpetrators were found and big players have been identified, their status as suspects is in question. Those caught have not been put into prisons. And to be honest there is no continuation of legal process until to date. The fact that we caught so many people and helped to repatriate them back to their respective homes was already a success but the follow up process according to the law appears to be tainted. There has been a similar case last year but it was much smaller in scale. Again the law is not very clear about prosecuting those involved in such criminal acts of human smuggling. We need to have tougher laws and sanctions for those involved in human trafficking.
Can you explain how your organisation becomes involved at the community level to create awareness of human trafficking issues ?
We tend to socialize what we do to the public in a meaningful manner. We try to reach out to the various communities and the public about the steps to take to prevent human trafficking by cultivating anti-trafficking agents, providing and arranging T-Shirts to be distributed as well as by installing banners on streets and arranging advertisements on various media channels ranging from newspapers and radio. We try to also warn Indonesian workers to be wary of promises made by employees before they are recruited for a posting overseas. Many of them are tempted by money. There is a need to realize that many of these get rich schemes are in fact empty promises. As part of our campaign, we distribute stickers to the public in the streets and even distributing stickers to potential areas of trafficking like in Kupang and Flores outside of KEPRI using our channels and contact points in these regions. In the stickers we mention the hotline number to call and even email contacts for people to send anonymous emails to us.
Does this include the sponsorship of events in Batam and KEPRI ?
We do sponsor events in Batam and KEPRI. Every month we try to have an ad hoc meeting with other NGOs in Batam. However it is dependent on the funds that we get and how best we can work with our limited funds. We do not have fixed fund received from sponsors on a monthly basis unlike other NGOs. However, when we have clients, there are programs that we can work with and receive support from church goers and contributions from churches as well. This in fact started off as an accident back in 2015 when churches members in KEPRI Church decided to save money to assist children that were part of domestic violence. The money was later funnelled to another church group that decided to coordinate closely with us. Since then we have been supported by contributions from church goers. We also receive funds from sponsors but we are not bound by them and our agenda cannot be interfered with or changed due to sponsors. However in reality since we do not have a fixed budget every month, we do what we can. We can’t work to our optimal due to shortage of funds. However since we are a volunteer organization, our overheads are low.
Do you work with international NGOs in supporting your various programs especially in the prevention of human trafficking ?
In Batam, there many NGOs both local and international working in the same related areas and issues that include violence against women/children, domestic violence, and human trafficking issues. There are NGOs that specialise in human trafficking like the Anti-Trafficking Movement. There are NGOs called ‘Gerhana’ and ‘Lintas Nusa’ and there are also friends from NGOs that we work with regularly. We have these formal and informal networks and normally have meetings on a monthly basis. We exchange ideas, and share information as well as materials together in order to build a relationship and to discuss the latest issues. We have common partnerships with these NGOs. We also share intelligence and often coordinate with the local authorities including the POLDA Balerang or POLDA in Tanjung Pinang. Our main objective is to control and identify agents of human trafficking and to assist the victims of human trafficking. Also since geographically we are adjacent directly to Singapore and Malaysia, we do work with International NGOs such as International Organization for Migration (IOM), ‘Migrant Care’ and other NGOs from Singapore and Malaysia. In Singapore, we mostly work together with church organizations.