Batam rejected passport applicants over suspected militant links

Immigration officials during a press conference show documents of immigration violations recently uncovered by the Batam Immigration Office in Batam, Riau Islands, on Jan 4.
Immigration officials during a press conference show documents of immigration violations recently uncovered by the Batam Immigration Office in Batam, Riau Islands, on Jan 4.PHOTO: THE JAKARTA POST/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

The Indonesian immigration authorities have rejected 418 passport applications made through their Batam office last year, with some of those denied suspected to have made plans to travel to the Middle East to join the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Indonesian immigration office spokesman Agung Sampurno said yesterday that the applicants were rejected for various reasons, from owning multiple passports to being blacklisted for criminal offences.

"They also included those suspected of going to Syria to join ISIS," he said, but declined to disclose the number or their identities.

"Densus 88 has requested that we keep the information, such as their names, their hometowns, their ages and their gender, confidential as police are still monitoring these people and their network," he told The Straits Times, referring to the Detachment 88 counter-terror unit.

"We know they are going there from the intelligence gathered by the police, military, Interpol as well as information shared by other countries," he said. There is no direct flight to Syria from Jakarta, he added, so Indonesians wanting to link up with ISIS usually travel by sea to Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, leaving from ports in Batam.

The Jakarta Post yesterday quoted Batam Immigration Office head Teguh Prayitno as saying that barring the suspects from getting passports was part of measures to stop more Indonesians from joining ISIS.

The applicants were turned down not only after checks through the biometric system but also based on interviews, during which they indicated their desire to work illegally abroad and join a movement suspected to be part of ISIS, the report said. "The officers drew conclusions based on their gestures and explanations, which aroused suspicion," Mr Teguh said.

Singapore last month deported to Batam two Indonesians who had attempted to use the Republic as a transit point for travel to Syria. The woman and the man, both 40, were deported on Dec 27.

On Feb 21 last year, three employees of a radical boarding school and a student were stopped in Singapore and sent back to Indonesia.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 09, 2017, with the headline 'Batam rejected passport applicants over suspected militant links'. Print Edition | Subscribe