The Maldives was yesterday admitted to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in a significant step towards improving the welfare and lifestyle of migrant workers.
The Maldives joined the IOM with thirteen other states during the 2011 IOM Council in Geneva this week, raising total membership to 146 nations from all global regions.
This year’s session also marks IOM’s 60th anniversary. The organisation currently runs 2,900 projects in over 400 field locations. It’s 2010 expenditure exceeded US$1.4 billion.
IOM was established in 1951 as an inter-governmental organisation which supports orderly management, international cooperation, practical solutions and humanitarian assistance among countries addressing migrant issues, particularly those dealing with refugees and internally displaced people.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated in a press release that “IOM experts have already begun work with the Maldives Government to help with the better management of migration in the country – especially in the context of the large numbers of migrant workers in the Maldives.”
In 2010, the United States’ State Department listed the Maldives second on its Tier 2 Watchlist for Human Trafficking, following a report that Bangladeshi workers were being exploited in high numbers by fake companies promising work permits.
This year 308 cases have been reported to police involving expatriates leaving their sponsors, and more than 4000 passports belonging to illegal migrants have been found.
Thirty-five police officers were subsequently trained trained to combat human trafficking, and took part in the workshop ‘Integrated Approach to Combating Trafficking in Persons’, organised by the IOM.
Maldives Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Iruthisham Adam, said IOM membership was an honor for the Maldives.
“The Maldives is in the particular situation of being a Small Island Developing State, until very recently a member of the UN’s Least Developed Country category, which nevertheless is a major destination country for economic migrants.”
Economic migrants primarily from South Asia account for approximately one quarter of the country’s population, she noted.
“The Maldives greatly values the contribution they have made and continue to make to our economy and society,” said Adam. “However, the situation also raises a range of challenges, especially relating to our human, technical and financial capacity to manage such population movements.”
Adam said IOM membership would provide valuable support and expertise to the Maldives as it strives to manage internal and external migration “in a way which fully benefits the migrants themselves and the wider Maldivian society.”
Welcoming the Maldives’ membership, IOM Director General Ambassador William Lacy Swing praised the government for raising awareness of the effects of climate change on Small Island Developing States.
Other new members are Ethiopia, South Sudan, the Holy See, Antigua and Barbuda, Chad, Comoros, Djibouti, Guyana, Micronesia, Mozambique, Nauru, the Seychelles and Vanuatu.