The government is to conduct a management audit of both the Human Resources Ministry and the Immigration Department this weekend, following a two-week investigation targeting corruption and the facilitation of labour trafficking.
The Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) assumed desk duties at both the ministry and the department a fortnight ago, while police conducted the investigation. The MNDF’s involvement has since been scaled down and immigration staff have returned to their duties.
Local media reported over the weekend that a senior individual working at the Human Resources ministry had been arrested. Police Sub-Inspector Ahmed Shiyam confirmed that a number of foreign nationals and Maldivians involved in labour brokering had been arrested, but did not confirm whether one of these individuals was a ministry official.
“We will be giving details on the case very soon,” he said.
Immigration Controller Abdulla Shahid confirmed the arrest of a human resources ministry official.
“The MNDF still have to release a report,” he said. “Also this [coming] Sunday, on direction of the President, both the Immigration Department and the Human Resources Ministry will be subject to a management audit.”
Shahid has previously stated that the country’s 40,000-50,000 suspected illegal expatriate workers are costing the government Rf130 million (US$8.4 million) annually in lost permit fees.
If accurate, this would amount to almost half of the countries expatriate population, which sources in the Maldives Monetary Authority estimate already remits US$8 million out of the country every month, exacerbating the Maldives’ ongoing foreign currency shortage.
Meanwhile, the Maldives remains on the US State Department’s tier two watch list for human trafficking for a second year.
The report, updated in June, noted that migrant workers from Bangladesh and to a lesser extent, India, are being subjected to forced labour in the Maldives, primarily in the construction and service sectors, while women and girls are also being subjected to sex trafficking.
An unknown number of the up to 110,000 foreign workers in the country – a third of the population – “face conditions indicative of forced labor: fraudulent recruitment practices, confiscation of identity and travel documents, withholding or nonpayment of wages, or debt bondage,” the report noted, adding that 30,000 workers had no legal status in the country.
Former Bangladeshi High Commissioner to the Maldives, Professor Selina Mohsin, who finished her assignment in July last year, 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”, often after having paid between US$1000-US$4000 to fraudulent recruitment brokers based both in Bangladesh and the Maldives.