Rising migrant worker population threat to “Maldivianness, culture and nationhood”: President Waheed

President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik has warned the Maldives will face difficulties in seeking foreign assistance should it descend to Tier 3 of the US State Department’s human-trafficking watch list.

Speaking at a ceremony to celebrate National Day, Waheed stated the Maldives is now “forced” to take measures against changes to the “national character” due to the rising number of migrant workers in the country.

The Maldives has been listed on the tier 2 watch list for human trafficking for three years in a row. Waheed stated that if the country descends to Tier 3, “it would face difficulties, among other issues, in seeking foreign assistance”.

In 2012, the Maldives only narrowly avoided a descent to Tier 3 – the worst category – after presenting a written plan that, “if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.”

In his speech today (January 13), Waheed said the government was taking measures to prevent the country from falling into Tier 3 category of human trafficking, by initiating an awareness campaign underway and a draft bill on anti-trafficking submitted to the People’s Majlis.

Foreign influence threatens “Maldivianness”: President Waheed

In his National Day speech, Waheed also warned that the Maldivian population risks being overtaken by the migrant population in just six years if immigration continues to grow at its current rate.

Waheed stated that this was something “no Maldivian can and will, want to accept”.

“If the number of migrant workers continues to increase, [Maldivian] national character will be lost,” the President was reported as saying on the island of Fonadhoo in Laamu Atoll.

“If the influence of foreigners grows, [the] threat of negative impacts on Maldivianness, culture and nationhood is not unrealistic,” he added.

Border control system crucial in addressing human-trafficking

At the National Day speech, the President was reported as saying that an effective border control system was crucial for addressing trafficking.

Last month, parliament voted unanimously to instruct the government to terminate the border control project agreement with Malaysia-based IT group Nexbis, over allegations of corruption.

Speaking about the BSC project last month, Majlis Finance Committee member Ahmed Hamza told Minivan News at the time there was a “worry” within the immigration department that their own border control system would not be sufficient.

Furthermore, Hamza stated there was a “possibility” that human trafficking could increase should the Nexbis contract be cancelled, and to combat this parliament will need to provide a “sufficient solution to deal with these problems”.

Speaking at National Day, President Waheed claimed there were approximately 111,000 migrant workers using work visas and over 40,000 illegal migrant workers in the Maldives.

‘Blue Ribbon Campaign Against Human Trafficking’

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently 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 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.

The MOU states that the media outlets will produce and broadcast programmes aimed at disseminating information on the issue of human trafficking.

Nasheed’s National Day statement

Meanwhile, former President Mohamed Nasheed gave his own National Day statement calling for a security force that is “impartial and honest” to help build the nation.

“The nationalism that had defended [our] freedom [in the past] should be beneficial to the people and their progress.

“The true guardians of this system are the people. Today, due to an uninvited interference by the security forces to the people’s rightfully elected government and their interference to the progress of the nation has resulted in re-emergence of the old political culture,” Nasheed said, in a statement.