The Great Wall of Paper

Bali is known by a number of titles – the Island of the Gods, the Island of a Thousand Temples, and more recently the World Peace Committee decided to bestow yet another title: the Island of Peace.

Bali has a local population of around 3.9 million, tourist figures hover around 2.5 million annually and it is also home to 30,000 or so foreign residents (these are just the legally registered ones). Few would guess another title Indonesian private investigators might justifiably offer: the Island of Runaways.

Indonesia in general, and perhaps Bali in particular, is one of those havens that people who want to disappear go to.

Private investigators have clients who firstly “simply” need to know if someone has arrived in Bali or Indonesia. The targets have their own reasons for wanting to fade away – trying to get longer away than the long arm of the law (they need to be found and served court papers), a spouse that has run away with the children or simply just left their partner, and parents with children looking for reconciliation, or a teenager who for some reason has “gone”.

As an example there was a client who was pretty sure their spouse was planning on coming to Bali with their two Crimes against Humanity children – an action that went against a court injunction relating to the children’s custody. The client did not know when exactly, nor the route their partner was planning.

In this scenario the first task was to find out if the runaway was physically in Bali. Once this has been done the second task is usually to locate the target.

Clients that need to know if someone is in Bali or Indonesia think private detectives and private investigators in Jakarta or Bali can just go down to immigration and ask them to click a few keys on a computer, and within a couple of minutes a centralised computer system will reveal when they arrived and through which port they landed in.

If only it was that simple. This is Indonesia with over 17, 500 islands and 44 different ports of entry (by sea, land or air).

The obstacle basically is that immigration records are neither centralised nor computerized.

For sake of illustration let’s call this client’s spouse “J”. It would be a nice start to the two tasks for any private investigator in Indonesia if J had flown directly into Bali and registered through immigration there.

It just isn’t that simple unfortunately. Before going to Bali J might have fancied visiting the 9th-century Buddhist monument in Borobudur Central Java, or taking the children to see the Orangutans in Borneo.

J could have entered through any of the other 43 ports besides Bali, and then gone off to see the Orangutans or Borobudor before travelling internally to the Island of the Gods.

As I said the immigration records are not centralised so if J did enter lets say though Jakarta she would not show up in the Bali immigration records through a click or two on a computer in Bali.

There is also another big problem for private investigators – paper, paper and more paper. Stacks of it in filing cabinets and then piled up on top of them because the cabinets are full.

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