By Beh Lih Yi
KUALA LUMPUR, March 6 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Indonesian officials say they hope that a new film starring human trafficking victims will reach rural areas to raise awareness about the risks of signing on to work abroad.
The short film, "A Dream of a Misty Land", follows the story of a few teenagers from rural Indonesia who were lured to work in other countries by job recruiters, but ended up being exploited.
The plot is all too real for hundreds of thousands of Indonesian women who leave behind their families and their country every year to become domestic helpers.
A string of abuse and human trafficking cases has prompted Indonesia to take action, including a ban on women going to the Middle East for domestic work. But campaigners say the country still struggles to stem the flow of migration.
Officials at the Ministry of Women's Empowerment and Child Protection, which partially funded the film that premiered last month, said they hope the story can serve as a deterrent.
"I hope that the film could reach the rural areas as well as where the women job seekers and the girls are originated from," said Vennetia Danes, the ministry's deputy head of women's protection.
"Indonesia which has thousands of islands and a population of 260 million people face challenges in controlling trafficking in persons," she said over the phone from Indonesia.
Most of the actors in the 41-minute film were trafficking victims who were domestic workers in Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan, producer Maizidah Salas said.
The story is also drawn from Salas' own experience.
A former domestic helper in Taiwan over a decade ago, her employer refused to pay her and withheld her passport. Salas was eventually arrested and deported when her work visa expired.
"This has happened to so many Indonesians, falling victim to these false promises," said Salas, who is also a campaigner with the non-profit Indonesian Migrant Workers' Union.
"I hope the film can be a more effective way in raising the awareness," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Both the producer and the government are promoting the film in rural Indonesia, where people are vulnerable to human traffickers because there is less awarenss of the problem.
There is no official number of Indonesian trafficking victims. Nearly half of the world's 53 million domestic workers are from Asia, according to the International Labour Organization.
An Indonesian maid died in Malaysia last month in one of the latest abuse cases, angering Indonesian officials who later said she was a victim of human trafficking.
(Reporting by Beh Lih Yi @behlihyi, Editing by Jared Ferrie Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)
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