More than one million foreigners travelled to the Maldives last year. There are over 58,000 migrant workers in the Maldives, of whom more than a third worked on luxury resorts. A US government report has said the number of “documented and undocumented” foreign workers in Maldives could be as high as 200,000. Most are from India and Bangladesh.
Ahmed Tholal, vice-president of the the Maldives’ human rights commission, said there has been a recent spate of attacks of “hate crimes” and there was a background of entrenched discrimination and “inhuman treatment” of migrant workers in the Maldives, who he said “make an immense contribution to the economy” but had no one to defend them. Two men from Bangladesh have died from injuries in the last week. One migrant worker from Bangladesh, who said he would attend the protest despite the ban, said the community was “afraid to go out on the streets, they are stabbing us, beating us”. The US state department’s Trafficking in Persons report last year claimed that migrant workers suffered forced labour, confiscation of identity and travel documents, withholding or nonpayment of wages, and debt bondage. The report criticised local authorities for failing to “fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.”
Immigrant have been told they will be ordered to leave the island nation if they go ahead with a planned protest against alleged discrimination and violence. Mohamed Anwar, the controller of immigration and emigration, said any protest by migrant workers would breach the terms of their work permits, and participants’ visas would be cancelled without further warning. “The immigration department will not hesitate in penalising those who participate in protests,” Anwar said. On Thursday the economic ministry repeated the threat. “We believe the planned protest by migrant workers is a premeditated attempt to undermine the Maldivian economy and businesses,” it said.
Marouf Zaki, of the Tourism Employees Association of Maldives, said: “The current migrant workforce is very important for the economy but is facing a very worse situation. We are calling for a peaceful demonstration. We believe they have full rights to do that. To protest is a universal right.”
Ahmed Tholal said the country’s constitution guaranteed anyone on Maldivian soil the right to protest. “A clause in a migrant worker’s contract cannot override the constitution,”