Speaking at the ‘Workshop on Migration Processes and Policies in the Maldives’ held yesterday (August 21) in Malé, Minister of Foreign Affairs Dunya Maumoon emphasised the importance of addressing the gaps in the law and issues in its implementation.
The minister reiterated the commitment of President Abdulla Yameen, to address the issues and challenges with regard to migration management in the Maldives.
She thanked the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Development Fund for its assistance in protecting the rights of migrant workers and welcomed the recommendations detailed in the initial findings report, “A Review of Migration Management Processes and Policies in the Maldives”.
Ahmed Amjad of the Friendship Association of India and Maldives told Minivan News that the seminars hosted by IOM in January had been very effective.
Speaking at the event, Dunya stressed the importance of striking the right balance between excessive permeability of the borders, with excessively regulated migrant labour markets and having safeguards to prevent exploitation of the system by both employers and migrant workers.
Furthermore, Dunya emphasised the importance of distinguishing illegal migrants and undocumented workers, and orienting policies accordingly.
Highlighting the fact that the majority of migrant workers in the Maldives are from Bangladesh, Dunya stated that the study tour to Bangladesh, conducted in May this year for Maldivian Government officials, contributed immensely towards the work of the government with regards to migration management.
Earlier this year the Department of Immigration and Emigration deported 6,400 migrant workers between January and July and was holding 159 workers in detention as of July 22.
According to the department, barring a handful arrested on criminal offenses, all were undocumented – some having worked illegally for up to 12 years.
The current special operation to deport undocumented workers was announced on April 24, with Minister of Defence and National Security Mohamed Nazim – also in charge of the immigration department – promising “the whole [of] Malé will be cleaned [of migrant workers]” within three weeks.
The 2014 US State Department’s Trafficking In Persons Report highlighted lack of procedures to identify victims among vulnerable populations, and inadequate training for officials.
The report stated that “the government penalized some victims for offenses committed as a result of being trafficked and also deported thousands of migrants without adequately screening for indications of forced labor.”