A rise in the number of migrants using Indonesia as a transit hub has become a pressing concern for Jakarta. In a bid to map out a regional strategy aimed at addressing the issue, the foreign ministry hosted a landmark conference on August 20th.
"We will address an issue that I know is of concern for all of us," Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa told participants as the event got under way.
The goal, Marty said, was to forge a shared commitment in the fight against human smuggling and trafficking with a focus on four aspects: prevention, early detection, protection and legal action.
"We have confidence that the implementation of these commitments will result in effectively addressing the issue of irregular movement of persons," he said, according to The Jakarta Post. "Shared responsibility was the main sentiment expressed by all of us in this meeting – how we can actually fulfil this commitment working together to address the issue."
The number of boat migrants is increasing, Marty said. More than 18,000 people have arrived on Indonesian shores in 2013 – a number that doesn't include those who died before reaching the destination.
Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono has stressed the need for a regional approach, saying his nation cannot go it alone.
"It requires effective co-operation – not just Australia and Indonesia, but all (countries) have the responsibility," he told the press while visiting the Presidential Palace in Bogor, West Java, in July.
Indonesia's large territory makes it a challenge to halt the flow of illegal migrants, he added
Improved conditions at home seen as key
While some migrants leave for economic reasons, others are asylum seekers wishing to escape political oppression or violence in their homelands, analysts note. In some cases, they become vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous smugglers.
Ida Bagus Adnyana, Director of Investigation and the Enforcement for the Directorate General of Immigration (Direktur Penyidikan dan Penindakan Ditjen Imigrasi), said improved conditions in the respective home countries is the key to reducing the numbers of migrants.
"The answer is to improve conditions in the countries of origin of the asylum seekers. They need to end the conflict, improve social welfare, and stop the oppression," he told Khabar Southeast Asia.
A local resident of Cirebon, West Java, says the area is commonly used by migrants and asylum seekers.
"I do not know the exact number of asylum seekers we have found in West Java, but if you pay attention to the local news, there are at least a few cases per month. West Java's location is a convenient transit before heading to Christmas Island," said Hanafi Hermawan, a resident of Cirebon, West Java.
Hanafi has witnessed one rescue in West Java, and he supports the effort of the Indonesian government in hosting the conference.
Hesti Handayani, a graduate student from the University of Indonesia with a focus on international relations and migration, believes a multi-pronged approach is needed.
"I think addressing the situations in their home countries will reduce the motivation for people to leave their countries. Additionally, as transit countries, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand must improve border security. The human trafficking issues are multi-dimensional and will require a concerted effort to resolve them," she said.