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Indonesian woman returns paralyzed from Riyadh sparks human trafficking suspicions

Budi Hartini, a paralyzed Indonesian migrant worker returning from Riyadh, prompts a human trafficking investigation, raising concerns about migrant worker safety.



INDONESIA: In a shocking turn of events, a 39-year-old woman identified as Budi Hartini hailing from Teniga Village in the Tanjung District of North Lombok, West Nusa Tenggara (NTB), has been left paralyzed after her return from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in September 2022.

Authorities suspect that she may have fallen victim to human trafficking.

Hartini’s condition is currently dire, as she is unable to speak and is confined to a wheelchair. Disturbingly, there are visible stitches on her head and scars on her throat.

Muhammad Saleh, the Chairperson of the Migrant Workers Legal Aid Center, revealed, “When she was brought back (picked up in Jakarta), she was already paralyzed, her head had already been fractured but had been stitched back together. Her body is now paralyzed; she can’t speak, can’t do anything, and no one seems to be taking responsibility.”

Budi Hartini has filed a report on her alleged human trafficking ordeal with the North Lombok Regional Police.

Accompanied by her family, the village head, the Legal Aid Center, and migrant worker protection advocates, she submitted her complaint to the Directorate of General Crime Investigation (Dit Reskrimum) at the NTB Regional Police headquarters.

According to Saleh, Hartini’s case goes beyond the usual human trafficking cases and involves potential violations of human rights.

“Because this case is not just a regular human trafficking case, but it involves human rights violations. The victim’s head was fractured, allegedly from a fall at the airport. But we do not yet know if this occurred at the airport,” he explained.

Saleh added that if the victim did fall at the airport, there should be an official statement from airport authorities or a local hospital.

“Because the airport is a highly accountable place. So, if someone falls, there should be a letter from the airport authorities, perhaps if she was still under the airline’s responsibility, there should also be a letter from the local police, a letter from the hospital, including the local government,” Saleh emphasized.

Novita Sari, a Migrant Worker Advocate, recounted that the incident began when Hartini registered as a domestic worker intending to go to the Middle East in May 2022, through an intermediary known as SY.

Shortly afterwards, Hartini was processed and sent to a shelter in Jakarta. After one week in Jakarta, she was then provided with a ticket to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

From the moment BD left for Riyadh, her family in Lombok received no further information.

“Based on the information we received, she had an accident at Riyadh Airport. According to what we heard, she had a head injury and underwent surgery,” Novita explained.

Throughout the surgical and medical treatment processes, the family received no communication whatsoever.

“During this process, there was no information given to the family, neither at the time of the incident nor during her treatment,” Novita stated.

Three months after Hartini’s alleged fall at Riyadh Airport, the family was informed that Hartini would be repatriated due to her illness.

“They only mentioned she was sick, without specifying the nature of her illness,” Novita added.

Upon Hartini’s return on 3 September 2022, the family was shocked and devastated. Budi Hartini, who had departed as a healthy migrant worker, returned in a pitiful condition.

Her hair had been shaved due to surgery, and there were visible stitches on her head from a surgical procedure. She also had scars on her throat, rendering her unable to speak, relying solely on gestures. Hartini’s condition remains far from stable.

Accompanied by her family, Hartini has reported the alleged human trafficking case to the NTB Regional Police in hopes of obtaining justice.

“Our hope is to achieve justice because this has led to permanent disability and to deter other intermediaries,” Novita remarked.

Ni Made Pujewati, the Head of Subdirectorate IV at the West Nusa Tenggara (NTB) Regional Police’s Directorate of General Crime Investigation. (Photo:

In response to the case, Ni Made Pujewati, the Head of Subdirectorate IV at the NTB Regional Police’s Directorate of General Crime Investigation, stated that they would thoroughly investigate the recruitment process of victims sent to work in Saudi Arabia.

“We will delve into the facts of what the victim actually experienced, starting from the recruitment process, this is a fragment that needs to be explored,” Pujawati said on Monday, September 25, 2023.

The NTB Regional Police’s Human Trafficking Task Force, in collaboration with district police departments, has already uncovered 31 cases in 2023 involving hundreds of Indonesian migrant workers.

Among these cases, Hartini’s condition has been described as the most severe.

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