Bangladesh will lift the ban on worker migration to the Maldives after a government delegation was sent to investigate allegations of fraudulent recruitment, forced labour and migrant unemployment.
In September Minivan News reported that the Bangladesh’s Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET) had prohibited immigration over concerns that labourers were being lured to the Maldives with the promise of jobs, only to find themselves unemployed and unable to return to their home country.
BMET Director General Begum Shamsun Nahar told the Dhaka Tribune that “a delegation went to Maldives recently and found that our workers are all employed there.”
However he noted that the wages in the Maldives were low while the migration cost was high, with the average worker spending around Tk 2,00,000 (US$2500) to go to country, despite earning only US$150-190 per month.
The Dhaka Tribune noted that while the Maldivian government’s data put the number of Bangladeshi workers at 80 000, BMET had only recorded the departure of 28,000 workers since 1976.
The head of the delegation to the Maldives, Deputy Secretary of the Expatriates’ Welfare Ministry Badiur Rahman told the Tribune that workers were using middlemen to bypass immigration procedures, “and overcome the limited interest of Maldivians in becoming labourers.”
According to Mohamed Ali Janah, former President of the Maldives Association of Construction Industry (MACI), the lack of a functioning labour management system combined with this domestic labour shortage prohibits employers from recruiting legitimate workers amongst the expatriate population.
Janah estimated earlier this year that the country’s illegal foreign workforce was potentially at 100,000 people, he said the failure to implement a functioning system of labour management in the Maldives had made it hugely difficult to find legitimate workers among the expatriate population.
“Why would we want to hire potentially illegal labour, we don’t know who these people are,” he said. “We have a huge number of projects in the country right now, so we will have to find the people to work, even if it is from China or Cambodia or another country.”
The Maldives was this year placed on the US State Department’s Tier Two Watch List for Human Trafficking for the fourth consecutive year.
As with last year’s report, the country avoided a downgrade to the lowest tier “because [the] government has a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.”
However US Ambassador-at-large for the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, Luis CdeBaca, noted during the release of the report that the six countries again spared a downgrade would not be eligible next year – including Afghanistan, Barbados, Chad, Malaysia, Thailand and the Maldives.