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Alarming Reports on Human Trafficking in Maldives

August 17th, 2010 · 1 Comment · Labour Rights

Minivan News has published a heart-breaking report on human trafficking in the Maldives, especially exploitation of Bangladeshi migrant workers.  The report, based on an interview with former Bangladeshi High Commissioner to the Maldives Professor Selina Muhsin, says profit earned from human trafficking in the Maldives rivals fishing as the second largest industry in the Maldives.

Former Bangladeshi High Commissioner to the Maldives, Professor Selina Muhsin, who finished her assignment in July, told Minivan News that every day 40 Bangladeshi nationals were turning up at reception, “having come to the Maldives and found they have nothing to do. So naturally they come here to the High Commission.”

Most of the stranded workers were recruited in rural areas of Bangladesh by local brokers, who would work alongside a Maldivian counterpart.

“The Bangladeshi counterpart charges the worker a minimum of US$2000, but it goes up to $US4000. This money is collected by the counterpart and divided: typically three quarters to Maldivian broker and one quarter to the Bangladeshi counterpart,” Professor Muhsin explained, prior to her departure.

“Many workers sell their land, their property, even their homesteads – putting their wives in a relative’s house – and come here for employment they have been told will fetch them between $US300-400 a month. But when they arrive, they find they have no employment.”

Stranded in a foreign country and unable to speak English or Dhivehi, the workers either melt into the Bangladeshi community and become illegal workers, working for low wages in substandard conditions, or present themselves at the High Commission and beg for help.

In some cases workers are collected from the airport by the brokers and have their passports confiscated before being dumped on the streets of Male’, Professor Muhsin explains. Typically the worker arrives with a local mobile phone number – inevitably disconnected – and does not know the name of the broker.

“They eventually end up at my office,” she says, pointing to the Commission’s reception area. “Often they are in a state of shock at arriving to discover they have no employment. I try to put them in a guest house for 7-10 days and see if they can be repatriated, but many can’t and because they owe sums of money they take any job they can – sometimes US$70-80 a month.”

Taking into account the Bangladeshi broker’s cut, and based purely on the numbers of stranded expatriates presenting themselves at the high commission, indicates an employment trafficking scam worth upwards of $43.8 million year.

Expatriate worker from Chittagong district of Bangladesh works on a balcony of a building in Malé, Maldives.


Expatriate worker from Chittagong district of Bangladesh working in building construction in Malé, Maldives

For years, migrant workers in the Maldives have been facing the problems of unfair dismissal, inadequate wages and long working hours. The arrival of a new democratic government in the Maldives in November 2008 has not brought any marked improvements to the conditions of migrant workers in the Maldives. The 2010 Human Trafficking Report by the US State Department condemns the Maldives for its poor record regarding human trafficking and has placed the Maldives on the State Department’s watch-list for human trafficking, blaming the government for “failure to investigate or prosecute trafficking-related offenses or take concrete actions to protect trafficking victims and prevent trafficking in the Maldives.”

Expatriate worker from Bangladesh working in Malé, Maldives.


Bangladeshi expatriate worker in Male’. The working and living condition of expatriate workers has not improved with the arrival of a democratic government

Human trafficking is booming in the Maldives as local employment agents earn lucrative profits through the import of workers from Bangladesh in trafficking scams carefully planned with counterparts in Bangladesh. It is believed that corruption among government officials is a major leverage for human trafficking in the country.


1 response so far ↓

  • 1 chemop // Aug 19, 2010 at 2:05 am

    Hi, if you have any contact with Former Bangladeshi High Commissioner to the Maldives, Professor Selina Muhsin, why dont you ask her to make this problem more aware in Bangladesh..maybe the govenment can do something to make poor people in the villages aware of these things happening and what to look for when going to job overseas and what NOT to do and who NOT to trust..etc etc..maybe have a list of trusted employees that have to register…etc etc
    And ofcourse from Maldives side things have to be done as hunt the people who abuse these people..and to make these ppl accountable for what they are doing to poor peoples lives..
    Just a thought..

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