“Discrepancies” prompt MNDF to oversee IT upgrade to curb labour trafficking

The Maldives will not become “a nest for human trafficking”, President Mohamed Nasheed pledged during his weekly radio address, although he acknowledged “many failures in the efforts by government agencies to maintain expatriate records.”

Speaking during his weekly radio address, Nasheed said there were discrepancies between the numbers of expatriate workers reported by the Human Resources, Youth and Sports and the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

The Human Resources Ministry claimed there were 74,000 foreign workers in the country, Nasheed said, while records at the Department of Immigration said there were 94,000 – suggesting that at least six percent of the country’s population is unaccounted for.

Nasheed said the government estimated that 40,000 expatriates in the country were working illegally. The situation had reached “an alarming level”, he said, “due to failure to investigate illegal workers, and lack of a systematic approach to [monitor] arrivals, employment and living conditions of expatriates.”

The President said he had tasked the Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) with overseeing the upgrade of IT and infrastructure at both the Human Resources Ministry and the Immigration Department.

He also announced the launch of a special police investigation into “any unlawful activity that might have led to the increasing number of illegal workers.”

“We will do everything possible to make the Maldives a country that respects human dignity, and ensure all Maldivians respect human rights and pursue a civilised lifestyle,” Nasheed said.

The government has placed greater urgency on addressing the problem of labour trafficking amid wider concerns over the health of the economy – particularly the foreign currency shortage. One report from the Maldives Monetary Authority (MMA) estimates that every expatriate worker remits US$100 per month to their families back home, for a total drain of US$8 million every month – a greater amount than the country earns from its new Tourism Goods and Services Tax.

By far the greatest number of expatriate labourers in the country are Bangladeshi nationals, and to a much lesser extent, Sri Lanka.

Former High Commissioner of Bangladesh Professor Selia Mohsin told Minivan News last year that 40 Bangladeshi nationals were arriving at the High Commission’s reception desk daily, “having come to the Maldives and found they have nothing to do”. She claimed that unscrupulous employment brokers in both countries were exploiting potentially hundreds of millions of dollars a year from illiterate and uneducated rural Bangladeshi families desperate for better opportunities.

Under Maldivian law, foreign workers arriving in the Maldives must have a work permit issued by the Immigration Department. This is obtained through an employer or agent, who must first request a foreign worker quota from the Ministry of Trade and Human Resources.

“The Maldivian [side] gets into connection with the Bangladeshi brokers, gets a business permit from the Ministry of Human Resources, says they want to recruit and gets a quota for more workers than they require – if they require any at all – and then ask a Bangladeshi counterpart to bring in the workers,” Professor Mohsin told Minivan News last year.

Brokers charged individual workers up to US$4000 to arrange their employment in the Maldives, she said, explaining that in many cases the family home and land was sold or mortgaged to raise this fee, split two-thirds in favour of the Maldivian broker.

One case that arrived on her desk – an application approved by the Ministry of Human Resources – was a request for 1800 workers for an unspecified construction project.

“Those people would have come [to Male’] had I not checked. Had I not done it, 1800 people would have sold their homes and become delinquent in the Maldives. This did not bother a Maldivian broker,” she said at the time. “Hell is not good enough for the people who are doing this.”

More recently, Immigration Controller Abdulla Shahid revealed that Bangladeshi nationals will be issued work visas by the Maldives High Commission in the national capital of Dhaka, in an attempt to address booming numbers of workers arriving in the country. These workers would require additional documents verified and issued in Bangladesh before their work visas and ID cards could be issued in the Maldives.

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16 thoughts on ““Discrepancies” prompt MNDF to oversee IT upgrade to curb labour trafficking”

  1. It is high time that the Bangladeshi High Commissioner understand the Maldivians are fed up of his countrymen here. Before the influx of Bangladeshis the locales were friendly with all foreigners; but now the norms have changed. It is believed; that it is the duty of high commissioner to advice the relevant authorities back home that Maldivians does not welcome fellow countrymen as expatriate workers rather Maldivians mistreat and hate the Bangladeshis in general.

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  2. I don't think there is much that the Bangladeshi Authorities can do as long as Maldivian authorities issue work visa to Bangladeshis. Then again, i have heard that some employees at high commissions are running recruitment agencies back at home. Imagine the effect when they join hands with corrupt officials at Maldivian authorities.

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  3. I hope the army will bring these crooks to justice and continue to control immigration for a foreseeable future. I think the army also must send special forces to check the customs as well.

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  4. Bangladesh workers are humans. The fault is on our side. We import them and let them loose. So they are forced to earn and send money home to recover the cost they had to pay to pay for an agent to come to Maldives. We don’t hate them but its time Bangladesh Government did something about the inflow of Bangladeshi’s to Maldives. The moment the Government talks about controlling the inflow of unskilled expatriates different Associations start shouting and crying about how difficult it will be for their industry and so on. The Government should have clear guidelines on the wages and also the lodging requirements of these people. I have heard of people using a pipe as their toilet and no running water to bathe and all these depended on the taps in different locations of Male. They smell bad because we have not set a standard of cleanliness of their board and lodging. The way Government checks eating places the lodging of foreign laborers. This is a must, for they live in very hard conditions. We use them for our development work so why hate them.

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  5. JJ, I have seen this picture enough numbers of times that I now feel as if I have read everything that can be written under this picture.

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  6. This is just the beginning of a military dictatorship lead by president Nasheed

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  7. @Salim

    "This is just the beginning of a military dictatorship lead by president Nasheed"

    Don't be stupid! The total lack of control over immigration has created a huge national security problem. There is NO ONE that can be trusted with national security apart from our professional armed forces. This is not something that has to be taken lightly. With all political and non-political civil service personnel embroiled in corruption, who is there to look after the interests of the country?

    We are facing a threat to the very existence of the country. It's being overwhelmed by an influx of low skilled labourers. The armed forces are there not just to protect the country from armed attacks, but all other forms attacks need to be defended as well. They are the most professional people we've got and I do hope they seal that gaping door of immigration once and for all.

    There is one solution to this. Close the country's borders for low skilled workers immediately. We have enough of them to never have to import any more! If businesses start moaning about it (which they surely will), let them! Within a month or so, they'll stop crying. As for the illegals, there's a couple of solutions. The MNDF can ship them out to sea in their vessels and hand over the respective country's navy, such as Bangladesh. An even better solution is to get the Bangladeshi navy to come here and take away their fellow countrymen! After all, Bangladesh has total responsibility for their citizens!

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  8. Take care of more urgent things like getting some more beds at the wards,build a paediatric and gynecology hospital:too many Maldivians with proper health education & health facilities...What are the selfish rich&the government doing?Why can't they see how Male' is getting over crowded and diseases like dengue fever,dysentery&other diseases spreading all over the place while there are no beds at hospitals to admit them..no doctors and no facilities...Why just sit and talk?These Bangladeshis won't go home anymore&no one can make them leave,Maldivians are too dependent on them for all their petty work...To make them work& sit,watch,eat&get fat&being overdosed on drugs is the Maldivian lifestyle..The youth of Maldives won't do the jobs that these Bangladeshis do over here...So they are here to stay&stop fooling others about this..TALK TALK TALK,just sit & talk while all at high postions spend their time in luxury..Good way to fool the common,poor man!!As it is Maldivians are bloody fools!

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  9. Honestly I do agree with you; but I don’t think that the Bangladeshi government will send a naval vessel to pick up their citizens from Male’.
    I believe that rather they will try to get compensation or rebates from Maldivian government. I have read few comments stating that we don’t mistreat or hate Bangladeshis. I have to say on this issue that when you won’t insult someone; nowadays the standard Dhivehi is that you are a Bangalhi (the meaning is a person without brain and who consume a huge quantity of boiled rice without any sort of curry or sources)

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  10. I can’t help but laugh at the speed the various politicians are spinning fairy tales regarding MNDF taking over the counters at Immigration and HR Ministry. Everyone has their own version. It’s a good time for people writing stories to record the information. Some of these politicians are so childish I can’t believe citizens of this country voted for them into Majlis to do a responsible job. MNDF are investigating a serious crime being committed in this country. That is human trafficking. Come on majlis members don’t fabricate stories u are damaging our country internationally. Or do u want these young officials to commit this crime all their lives. Talk about something worthy to help the people of this country.

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  11. As i understand, MNDF not only have some of the best trained personnel in the country in IT, they become important in this picture as a qualified independent party.

    i believe the current expatriate employment system is has been embroiled in corruption for years, changing it from within will take many many more years. Most of the stuff that has been done may not be possible to prove even if everyone knows, and the government cant fire civil service staff.

    besides, taking over an IT upgrade does not mean its a step towards a military government. I wish the government did more use of the military, like getting them involved in engineering projects.

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  12. sounds fishy, the real objective is most certainly something else...i have absolutely no doubts

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