Maldives remains on US State Department’s human trafficking watch list for second year

The Maldives remains on the US State Department’s Tier 2 Watch List for human trafficking, a list signifying an increasing number of victims and little evidence of increased efforts to tackle the problem.

The report comes days after the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) was called to temporarily take over the front line work of the Immigration Department and Human Resources Ministry pending an investigation into corruption and falsification of work permits.

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, the report said.

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.

Bangladeshi nationals were especially vulnerable to labour trafficking, the report stated, citing “diplomatic sources” as claiming that half the Bangladeshi workers in the country had arrived illegally, having paid between US$1000 and US$4000 in ‘recruitment fees’.

“In addition to Bangladeshis and Indians, some migrants from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Nepal reportedly experienced recruitment fraud before arriving in the Maldives,” the report noted.

“Trafficking offenders in the Maldives usually fall into three groups: families that subject domestic servants to forced labor; employment agents who bring low-skilled migrant workers to the Maldives under false terms of employment and upon payment of high fees for purposes of forced labor; and employers who subject the migrants to conditions of forced labor upon arrival,” the report revealed.

The State Department reiterated claims from the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives (HRCM) that female migrant workers were also being trapped by employers who were using threats and intimidation to prevent them from leaving.

More commonly, “Recruitment agents collude with employers and agents in the Maldives to facilitate fraudulent recruitment and forced labor of migrant workers.”

Domestic trafficking was also observed, whereby “some underage Maldivian children are transported to Male’ from other islands for forced domestic service, and a small number sexually abused by the families with whom they stayed. This is a corruption of the widely acknowledged practice where families send Maldivian children to live with a host family in Male for educational purposes.”

The US State Department’s report was critical of the Maldives for human trafficking enforcement in the country over the reporting period, and noted that it had not investigated or prosecuted any trafficking-related offences despite the scale of the problem.

“The government did not investigate or prosecute any labor trafficking cases, but is reportedly investigating two child prostitution cases,” it noted.

It was especially critical of the government’s treatment of those found to be victims of trafficking: “The Maldivian government did not ensure that victims of trafficking received access to necessary assistance during the reporting period. The government did not develop or implement formal procedures for proactively identifying victims, and did not identify any specific cases of trafficking. The Maldives did not provide access to services such as shelter, counseling, medical care, or legal aid to foreign or Maldivian victims of trafficking. The government did not conduct any anti-trafficking or educational campaigns, nor did it take any measures to reduce demand for forced labor within the country.”

The report noted that the Maldives’ general policy for dealing with trafficking victims “was to deport them.”

“Authorities did not encourage victims to participate in the investigation or prosecution of trafficking offenders. Due to a lack of comprehensive victim identification procedures, the Maldives may not have ensured that expatriates subjected to forced labor and prostitution were not inappropriately incarcerated, fined, or otherwise penalised for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked.”

The report also observed that while the Maldivian Constitution outlawed forced labour and slavery, a person legally married to a minor was exempt from the heavy penalties of the Child Sexual Abuse Act passed in 2009, and that “none of the offences specified in the legislation, including child prostitution, would be considered a crime.”


The report did highlight the ratification by cabinet by a Human Trafficking Plan in February 2011, but observed that this had no law enforcement component, and failed to distinguish people smuggling from trafficking.

Furthermore, a blacklist of 16 employment agencies and private companies by the Labour Relations Authority (LRA) showed no sign of being enforce.

A “rapid assessment” on human trafficking commissioned by HRCM in 2010 had not been finalised, the State Department report observed.

The report urged the government to develop procedures whereby government officials could identify victims of trafficking, and provide them with access to services for victims – particularly translators. It also urged greater efforts to investigate and prosecute trafficking offences.

The final recommendation was “take steps to ensure that employers and labor brokers are not abusing labor recruitment or sponsorship processes in order to subject migrant workers to forced labor” – one that appears to have been preempted by this week’s corruption probe of Immigration Department and Human Resources Ministry.


12 thoughts on “Maldives remains on US State Department’s human trafficking watch list for second year”

  1. of course, this is to be accepted. how can anni do anything about forced labour when his brothers in law are among the people at the forefront of it...

  2. i checked out the list and it seems we are a bit better than the likes of cuba, north korea and burma. they are tier 3. if it was ramses time egypt would be on tier 3 as well i guess. so guys we're not so bad, don't worry. we are trying to improve....or pretending at least. i am so proud! 😀

  3. Maldivians should be ashamed of this. One of these days some countries may decide to limit visa issuance to Maldivians as a punishment. Various Industries have raised hell and cried out that their industry will be dead if not for these expatriates. Govt. is talking of the people who are in this country illegally. I feel there will be enough Maldivians who willingly postpone building their house to settle the situation. Why are we so selfish. Look at our roads. The drain is filled with bottles. Someone put them there. And because of all this “I don’t care attitude” 4 children have died. I am sad for the parents who maybe were ever so careful to follow the healthy norms. When illness come knocking at their door they feel helpless. I recommend schools be closed to limit the spread of dengue. Sing the National Anthem and feel the words and bring a change to your thinking and reaction to whatever government does. We are Maldivians so respect. You can appose with respect. People feel ashamed to hear Majlis members fighting and the language they use. Its never too late to sit down and talk and sort out differences. I second Didi’s comment on this.

  4. Now it seems that the USA is putting pressure on Maldivian government to rectify immigration and labor policies.
    The question is whether if the government is capable to bring about meaning full changes.
    It is common knowledge that in general Maldives Customs, Immigration and the human resource ministry are corrupted to extremes. Employees who earn 3 to 4 thousand rufiyaa’s per month live a lavish life like filthy rich. Expensive motorbikes, sports cars and frequent weekends to Sri Lanka are normal way of life those employees.
    So far there is no official and NGO enquiries such matter here!

  5. I write this with the hope that the government and the Majlis may take note of this. That what is needed is not rocket science or political Magic. But a simple sense of willingness
    In the past and even now the norm is to blame and victimize the expatriates coming to the Maldives little noting that they come only because we use them for our own gains. And when the authorities talk about resolving the issue they talk about sending the expats back or jailing them or mostly deporting them and they are also fined.
    Legal Intervention
    Let it be known that no expat or foreigner can ever stay in the Maldives unless some Maldivian gave them board. Every plot of land in the Maldives belongs to a Maldivian by law. Therefore let it be enacted in the law that anyone who harbor’s an illegal immigrant is committing a crime. And let the fine be enough (about MRf 10,000.00 – 100,000.00) to encourage the landlord to send them back or at least to ensure that every foreigner staying at the apartments, house, resort or hotel are legal immigrants.
    Administrative Intervention
    It must be mandatory for the database of work permit and immigration system is reconciled and the database networked with the police, department of immigration and the ministry of labor. The ready access of data to the law enforcing agencies will be a tremendous deterrent to attempts by fraudulent operators to conduct fraud and or corrupt activities.
    Improve the operating system software at the labor Ministry remove the need for paperwork and ensure that every activity conducted on the network is recorded by the system as to who and why. The software should allow for law enforcement agencies to check when necessary online. The permit shall be issued online and without paper evidence but through electronic evidence. Each staff should be able to log onto the system using a biometric log-in key this way whatever he/she does will be recorded and will show time and date of activity too.
    However for this system to be successful the system must be tamper proof and must be done with the state of the art technologies that are available now. And the state should not try to inculcate options for special cases.
    US Tier Two watch list.
    The report by the US on the Maldives issue of human trafficking advices and informs of their willingness to remove Maldives from the tier two watch list to tier two should the government enact laws required to address the problem of illegal immigrants and human traffic. It is as simple as that. The State department is very keen on removing the Maldives from the watch list, they have spoken with the Government of Maldives repeatedly requesting the GOM to implement these measures and show the government’s willingness to address the issue through legislative amendments and humanitarian resources of addressing the victims of human trafficking

  6. I have to lough. Most of the normal thinking person know it what is coming. Just the Goverment closing there eyes! This can stoped or decrease tomorow! it they want! it's easy ! But its nice to have slave to take there cigarettes .

  7. I want President Nasheed to take tough stand on this and ensure all corrective actions are taken so that Maldives will get a positive report next year. I think sending MNDF to the immigration is a good decision.

  8. perhaps the government may realize that is an issue of Human Trafficking in the country, when all the support and funding get diminished.

  9. Hey guys think of the facts, I don't find it that bad as stipulated in this report . Can any one identify Maldivian underage being in forced labour' .havent you seen minors working at sex industry forcefully in countries like srilanka Thailand I Ida Malaysia singore etc' how many undocumented migrants live in Malay in India .. No this is Maldivian being too democratic . May be every one knows too much ,,, this is not as bad as even srilanka , how reliable are these info collected ,,this is insane Maldives being bullied from another angle ..

  10. Dear Ahmed Haleem'
    We are discussing a very humanitarian area we are talking about human issues human feelings, so sending mndf or police won't solve this issue. Military personnel are people trained to follow orders . So the consequence of hard core law enforcement dealing with these issues would end with dire consequences,
    Just like the Arabs you guys think these workers are slaves never had the slightest thought they are humans they too need their basic salads, basic rights for food and health, freedom of movement freedom to express etc' this is where you guys get your tounge tied up,,


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