Slavery in Indonesia
At first the men filtered in by twos and threes, hearing whispers of a possible rescue.
Then, as the news rippled around the island, hundreds of weathered former and current slaves with long, greasy hair and tattoos streamed from their trawlers, down the hills, even out of the jungle, running toward what they had only dreamed of for years: Freedom.
“I will go see my parents. They haven’t heard from me, and I haven’t heard from them since I left,” said Win Win Ko, 42, beaming, his smile showing missing teeth. The captain on his fishing boat had kicked out four teeth with his military boots, he said, because Win was not moving fish fast enough from the deck to the hold below.
The Burmese men were among hundreds of migrant workers revealed in an Associated Press investigation to have been lured or tricked into leaving their countries and forced into catching fish for consumers around the world, including the United States. In response to the AP’s findings, Indonesian government officials visited the island village of Benjina on Friday and found brutal conditions, down to an “enforcer” paid to beat men up. They offered immediate evacuation.
To the credit of the authorities, they looked into what they found at first and worked to uncover its full scope.