Migrant workers suffering poor treatment from their employers are giving up on taking their cases to court due to the “inaccessibility” of the Maldives legal system, an official from Transparency Maldives’ Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre (ALAC) has claimed.
ALAC Communications and Advocacy Manager Aiman Rasheed told Minivan News today that a large number of human rights abuse cases in the Maldives are “potentially” going unreported due to foreign workers not taking their disputes to court.
Rasheed claimed that both defects within government bodies and corruption were to blame for the human rights abuses affecting migrant workers.
“We are finding that a lot of the issues raised at our ALAC mobile camps involve employees not receiving their wages, having their passports confiscated by employers or are living in sub-standard living conditions,” Rasheed said.
Because of the perceived inaccessibility to the legal system in the country, Rasheed claimed that a lot of injustices involving migrant workers were not being taken to court.
“Getting involved in a legal case is a very costly process. It is very hard for a normal person to afford the services and the process can take a very long time.
“The problem is that we [ALAC] appear to be the only agency providing free legal advice to migrant workers, despite authorities recognising there is a need for free advice,” Rasheed claimed.
Since being launched back in 2012, ALAC has been providing free legal advice and training to victims and witnesses of corruption through mobile camps in Vaavu Atoll and Addu City.
So far, ALAC has assisted with 64 ongoing legal cases related to migrant rights abuses in just six months, whilst further providing advice and training to over 3,000 individuals, Rasheed claimed.
“While we cannot provide financial support to these individuals, we can offer guidance through our lawyers making the entire legal process a lot easier to navigate,” he said.
“We are wanting to further strengthen our partnership with state departments, because this is a national problem.”
While state departments have begun to introduce initiatives targeted at raising awareness of human rights abuse, in particular the ongoing issue of human trafficking, Rasheed claims that there has been no “serious action” taken to address the problem.
Blue Ribbon Campaign Against Human Trafficking
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Yesterday (January 9) inaugurated an initiative targeted at raising awareness of the human trafficking issue in the Maldives.
The strategy, entitled ‘Blue Ribbon Campaign Against Human Trafficking’ is expected to include activities to try and raise awareness among students and the business community.
The tourism industry, which employs the largest number of foreign staff in the country, was identified as another key focus of the initiative.
The Foreign Ministry announced that it had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with multiple local media outlets in the country as part of the campaign’s aim to raising awareness of human trafficking and other related issues.
Last month, Indian authorities raised concerns about the treatment of migrant workers in Maldives, stating that the tightened restrictions over providing medical visas to Maldivians was a “signal” for the Maldivian government to address the their concerns.
The commission spokesperson added that the introduction of the tighter regulations was imposed as a clear “signal” from Indian authorities that the concerns it had over practices in the Maldives such as the confiscation of passports of migrant workers, needed to be brought to an end.
On November 26, 2o12, a public notice had been issued by the Maldives Immigration Department requesting no employer in the country should be holding passports of expatriate workers.
Back in October, a senior Indian diplomatic official in the Maldives had expressed concern over the ongoing practice of confiscating passports of migrant workers arriving to the country from across South Asia – likening the practice to slavery.
The high commission also claimed this year that skilled expatriate workers from India, employed in the Maldives education sector, had continued to be “penalised” due to both government and private sector employers failing to fulfil their responsibilities.
Individuals wishing for free legal advice from Transparency Maldives’ Advocacy and Legal Advice Centre can contact the organisation for free on (800) 3003567