The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has today inaugurated an initiative targeted at raising awareness of the issue of human trafficking in the Maldives.
The Maldives has come under strong criticism internationally in recent years over its record in trying to prevent people trafficking, with the country appearing on the US State Department’s Tier Two Watch List for Human Trafficking three years in a row.
Speaking at the inauguration of the Blue Ribbon Campaign Against Human Trafficking, Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr Abdul Samad Abdulla stated that the initiative formed part of a larger plan to try addressing human trafficking in the Maldives.
This strategy 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.
“We have been conducting a lot of work to deal with the issue, though it may be generally a little known fact,” Samad said. “Our intention now is to work together with local media outlets and create more awareness about the issue. I would like to request media for strong cooperation in this initiative.”
The Foreign Ministry also announced that it had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) today with multiple local media outlets in the country to conduct the Blue Ribbon Campaign.
The MOU states that the media outlets will produce and broadcast programmes aimed at disseminating information on the issue of human trafficking.
The media outlets signed up to the scheme will also be required to report widely on related cases, providing airtime to create awareness on how to combat the issue, as well as reports on measures taken by the government in its fight against the issue.
The media outlets which signed the MOU today are MBC, Haveeru, VMedia Group, RaajjeTV, Miadhu Daily, Channel News Maldives, Sun Magazine, Sun FM, Sun Online, DhiFM and DhiFM Plus.
However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it would not be answering any questions from media today on its work and other issues affecting human trafficking during today’s press conference.
The ministry itself defines human trafficking as “taking undue advantage of a person through employing him, transferring him from place to place, taking guardianship of him, depriving him of making decisions on personal matters, assuming control over him through threats or abuse of power; or to create dependence, kidnap, or deceive him through any other means and take undue advantage of a person’s weaknesses and to conduct any of these activities in a manner that includes exchange of money from or to oneself.”
Under the new scheme, individuals held responsible for human trafficking offences in future would be officers in government offices mandated to oversee the issue, and yet fail to do so, as well as companies and other groups found to be involved in illegal practices.
Employers who force employees to work with no respect or regard to protecting human rights and persons who obstruct the taking of legal action against people who commit human trafficking offences will also be held responsible, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Late last month, Indian authorities told Minivan News that tightened restrictions on providing medical visas to Maldivians was a “signal” for the country’s government to address a number of concerns about the nation’s treatment of migrant workers.