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TAG MT 3: B1 Kisah Agen Perjalanan
By Michael Winchester
19/1/2001 8:13 pm Fri
[Memang seronok membaca terjemahan Pak -MT- kali ini. Satu kisah menarik bagaimana
seorang pakar menyeludup beroperasi tanpa dikesan. Dia berlesenkan kepada sesuatu yang
ditakuti orang. Keresahan orang penghubung itu menampakkan begitu hebatnya dia sehingga
begitu sukar untuk menuturkan kata. Pakar tersebut tinggal di Malaysia. Tentu ada sesuatu
di sini yang memudahkan beliau. Saya serahkan kepada pembaca untuk memikirkannya....
- Editor ]
Kisah Agen Perjalanan
Oleh: Michael Winchester
Kami memanggilnya dengan nama "Tareq". Dia memang sudah terkenal sebagai seorang ketua
sebuah sindiket yang menyeludup orang asing melalui Indonesia untuk memasukki
Australia. Setengah jam telah dihabiskan untuk kami menikmati minuman sambil
sekali-sekala mengangkat gelas minuman untuk menaikkan selera. Aku merasakan sudah tiba
masanya untuk mendedahkan bahawa aku adalah seorang wartawan yang sedang memburu cerita
mengenai jenayah trans-nasional. Kerana itu aku memerlukan jawapan darinya.
Abu Ayat adalah satu nama yang dikaitkan dengan seorang agen perjalanan. Dia merupakan
tukang urus yang memudahkan perjalanan bersifat antarabngsa. Yang membezakan insan
berusia 40-an dan pernah bertugas sebagai seorang jurutera itu daripada seorang agen
professional yang biasa anda lihat ialah cara dia menjalankan tugasnya tanpa sebarang
pejabat. Dia menggunakan telefon bimbit dan menggunakan nama lain sepergti Abu Ayat
untuk satu tempoh yang begitu lama sehinggakan dia sudah terlupa nama asal yang diberikan
oleh ibu bapanya. Yang lebih menekan lagi ialah harga yang dikenakan kepada pelanggannya
boleh mencecah $8,000 dollar setiap seorang. Itu pun untuk tiket satu hala dan mesti
dibayar secara tunai sahaja. Wang itu tidak akan dikembalikan lagi walaupun anda mampu
The 'Travel Agents'
On the trail of the syndicates smuggling desperate Middle Easterners
through Asia to Australia
By MICHAEL WINCHESTER
Tareq arches his eyebrows and purses his lips. He's not
taking this well. It's clear he doesn't believe a word and is
wondering what sort of idiot I take him for. Worse, as he
obviously doesn't believe I'm a reporter, he seems to be
assuming - not unreasonably under the circumstances - that
I'm some sort of Australian undercover agent, and a stupid
one at that. The artless incompetence with which I blundered
into this meeting probably does bear a suspicious
resemblance to how a real Aussie spy might operate. There's
a long, heavy silence. Tareq, I notice, is between me and the
It's taken over a month to reach this juncture in a search to establish how some of Asia's newest
crime syndicates operate the underground railway from South Asia and the Middle East into
Australia. Week after week since mid-1998, boats laden with Middle Easterners have been caught
heading for islands off northern Australia where the new arrivals - documents consigned to the
waves - can claim asylum as political refugees. The tide is alarming crime fighters and straining
Canberra's ties with its neighbors as the numbers flowing from Tehran and Karachi, through Kuala
Lumpur and Jakarta, and heading for Sydney and Melbourne grow from the hundreds to the
But as coincidence would have it, the trail began just a few hundred meters from the bar in, of all
places, a McDonald's hamburger joint. It would be difficult to find a culinary experience more brutally
homogenized than the Big Mac. But the McDon-ald's in Jakarta's Sarinah Shopping Mall has a
flavor conspicuously of its own. Come nine o'clock most nights and its brightly-lit interior assumes
the ambience of a sanction-stricken Baghdad flea-market. Around its plastic tables in brooding,
conspiratorial cabals gathers a motley assortment of Middle Easterners - Arabs, Iranians, Afghans,
Kurds. Almost all are males in their 20s and 30s. There, I first met a group of disconsolate Iraqis
who had not made it to Australia - the "Lucky Country" as it bills itself - but had parted with all
their money in the attempt. They were stranded, bitter and voluble. And it was from them that I
first heard about Abu Ayat, Akbar, and Flight IR840.
Stretch a term and you could call Abu Ayat a travel agent. That is, he's in the business of facilitating
international travel. What separates this tall, 40-something former engineer from your
run-of-the-mill travel professional is that he has no office, answers only mobile phones and has
been using aliases like Abu Ayat for so long he must be having difficulty remembering his real name.
Plus the bottom line: he can make up to $8,000 per client. One-way tickets only. Cash up front.
And no refunds - even if you could find him again.
Abu Ayat is a "people smuggler." Based in Kuala Lumpur in a pleasant mid- town apartment, Abu
Ayat moves between Malaysia, Indonesia and occasionally Bangkok in a business that these days is
considerably more lucrative than building bridges. He's part of an industry believed to move around
five million people each year - mostly from the Third World to the rich nations of North America
and Europe - and with excellent prospects for growth. Driven by a mix of ambition and despair,
oiled by economic globalization, people smuggling is shifting a lot of money - at least $7 billion each
year according to estimates - from the pockets of the desperate to those of the criminal.
Abu Ayat is cashing in on one of the newer ends of the market - shipping people from the unrest
and economic stagnation of West Asia to Australia. Thanks to syndicates run by men like him in
Malaysia and Indo-nesia, that movement is becoming highly organized and accelerating. In 1998,
47 boats and 200 passengers reached Australian shores. In 1999, it was some 80 boats and over
3,000 passengers. Last year, by October with the year-end "high-season" to come, the figure was
nearly 2,000. Those are the ones that are caught - and thrown by the once-relaxed but
now-paranoid Australian authorities into overflowing detention centers. The process of weeding
out those fleeing political oppression, who can stay, from those merely fleeing poverty, who can't,
stretches from weeks to months, and the spirit-sapping wait has led to several dramatic
break-outs and riots. Others will remain forever uncounted. Last month, two boats headed from
Indonesia for Australia are believed to have gone down with 160 would-be immigrants on board.
One vessel that apparently sank in 1999 with all lives lost carried over 200.