The Horrors Behind the Phone: The Dramatic Story of People Trafficked Into Call Centres

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The recent conviction of three traffickers in Indonesia suggests that progress may be made in combatting the issue of slavery in Asia, where thousands are currently trapped.

Rahim used to work as a boat operator in Indonesia, transporting essential goods between the islands, which provided enough income to support his wife and two children. However, due to the pandemic, the closure of borders and the lack of tourists caused the work to fall off, leaving them financially unstable.

Rahim, who is using a pseudonym for privacy reasons, grew increasingly eager to find employment as time went on. Therefore, he accepted when someone he knew offered him a job in Cambodia.

Lawsuit against Australian businessman over fake jobs

The job turned out to be different from what he had anticipated. He was confined to a call centre and directed to deceive foreign individuals, including Australians, and extort large sums of money.

“I was interested in working in Cambodia because the employer mentioned that the job could be highly lucrative,” Rahim shared.

“They offered me a simple task with the perks of accommodation and three daily meals. Additionally, they committed to pay me US$700 [about A$1000] per month if I agreed to join them.”

Rahim targeted high-net-worth Australians to prey on vulnerable people

Rahim’s job was to gain the trust of people who had been victimised. He did this by pretending to be an attractive woman and targeting older, affluent Australians who often kept money in the bank.

Rahim engaged the men in the conversation about their lives and extolled the virtues of investing in crypto. If they requested a video call, a model would appear instead of Rahim to continue the conversation.

Rahim would hand over the convinced individuals to a supervisor, who would then demand money from them through extortion.

“When I made a mistake at work, I was disciplined by being sent to a dark room,” he says. “I was trapped in the room and deprived of food for a week.”

Three traffickers in Batam sentenced to jail for human trafficking

A few weeks ago, three traffickers were sentenced to jail on Batam Island in Indonesia. They had brought Rahim into the job illegally. The traffickers, who were from Batam City and sent workers abroad unlawfully, received jail terms ranging from three to four years.

According to the anti-slavery organisation International Justice Mission, these convictions in Indonesia were some of the first related to human trafficking scams.

Human rights advocates say convicting the perpetrators is an important example to address a growing problem in the region that has negative consequences for Australians.

Rahim’s story serves as a cautionary tale to people everywhere. It demonstrates how easily someone can become entrapped in a trafficking scheme and highlights the horrors of forced labour. It is essential that more be done to prevent such atrocities from occurring, not just in Asia but around the world.

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