Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 July 2014, 14:56 GMT

2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Maldives

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 27 June 2011
Cite as United States Department of State, 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Maldives, 27 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e12ee63c.html [accessed 23 July 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Maldives (Tier 2 Watch List)

The Maldives is primarily a destination country for migrant workers from Bangladesh and, to a lesser extent, India, some of whom are subjected to forced labor. Some women and girls also are subjected to sex trafficking. An unknown number of the 80,000 to 110,000 foreign workers currently working in the Maldives – primarily in the construction and service sectors – face conditions indicative of forced labor: fraudulent recruitment practices, confiscation of identity and travel documents, withholding or nonpayment of wages, or debt bondage. Thirty thousand of these workers do not have legal status in the country, though both legal and illegal workers were vulnerable to conditions of forced labor. Diplomatic sources estimate that half of the 35,000 Bangladeshi workers in the Maldives went there illegally and that a number of these workers are victims of trafficking. Migrant workers pay $1,000 to $4,000 in recruitment fees in order to migrate to the Maldives; such high recruitment costs increase workers' vulnerability to forced labor, as concluded in an ILO report. In addition to Bangladeshis and Indians, some migrants from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Nepal reportedly experienced recruitment fraud before arriving in the Maldives.

A small number of women from Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, China, the Philippines, Eastern Europe, and former Soviet Union countries, as well as some girls from Bangladesh, are subjected to sex trafficking in Male, the capital. Some reports indicate that the prostitution of local girls is also a problem in the Maldives. The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives reported that some migrant female domestic workers were trapped in circumstances in which employers used threats and intimidation to prevent them from leaving. Some underage Maldivian children are transported to Male from other islands for forced domestic service, and a small number were reportedly sexually abused by the families with whom they stayed. This is a corruption of the widely acknowledged practice where families send Maldivian children to live with a host family in Male for educational purposes.

Trafficking offenders in the Maldives usually fall into three groups: families that subject domestic servants to forced labor; employment agents who bring low-skilled migrant workers to the Maldives under false terms of employment and upon payment of high fees for purposes of forced labor; and employers who subject the migrants to conditions of forced labor upon arrival. Recruitment agents in source countries generally collude with employers and agents in the Maldives to facilitate fraudulent recruitment and forced labor of migrant workers.

The Government of the Maldives does not comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking in persons; however, it is making significant efforts to do so, including ratifying a counter-trafficking action plan. Despite these efforts, the government has not demonstrated increased efforts to address human trafficking over the previous reporting period; therefore, the Maldives is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a second consecutive year. The government lacks systematic procedures for identifying victims of trafficking among vulnerable populations, and during the reporting period it did not investigate or prosecute trafficking-related offenses or take concrete actions to protect trafficking victims and prevent trafficking in the Maldives. Counter-trafficking efforts are impeded by a lack of understanding of the issue; a lack of legal structure; and a lack of a legal definition of trafficking.

Recommendations for the Maldives: Enact legislation prohibiting and punishing all forms of trafficking in persons; distinguish between human trafficking and human smuggling in legislation, policies and programs; develop and implement systematic procedures for government officials to proactively identify victims of trafficking among vulnerable groups, such as undocumented migrants and women in prostitution; work to ensure that identified victims of trafficking are provided access to victim services; increase efforts to investigate and prosecute suspected trafficking offenses; raise public awareness of human trafficking through media campaigns; empower the Labor Tribunal by giving it legal authority to enforce its decisions, and by providing translators so it is more accessible to foreign workers; and take steps to ensure that employers and labor brokers are not abusing labor recruitment or sponsorship processes in order to subject migrant workers to forced labor.

Prosecution

The Government of the Maldives undertook minimal anti-human trafficking law enforcement efforts during the year. Although the Maldives does not have laws prohibiting human trafficking offenses, its constitution prohibits forced labor and slavery. The Child Sex Abuse Act (2009) criminalizes the prostitution of children with a penalty of up to 25 years' imprisonment. Under Article 14 of the Act, however, if a person is legally married to a minor under Islamic Sharia, none of the offences specified in the legislation, including child prostitution, would be considered a crime. The government is currently drafting an anti-trafficking law, though there are indications that it may not adequately differentiate between migrant smuggling and human trafficking. The government did not investigate or prosecute any labor trafficking cases, but is reportedly investigating two child prostitution cases.

Protection

The Maldivian government did not ensure that victims of trafficking received access to necessary assistance during the reporting period. The government did not develop or implement formal procedures for proactively identifying victims, and did not identify any specific cases of trafficking. The Maldives did not provide access to services such as shelter, counseling, medical care, or legal aid to foreign or Maldivian victims of trafficking. The government's general policy for dealing with trafficking victims was to deport them, and it did not provide foreign victims with legal alternatives to their removal to countries where they might face hardship or retribution. Since 2010, the government reportedly deported three trafficking victims to their countries, and gave them permission to return to the Maldives in the future. Authorities did not encourage victims to participate in the investigation or prosecution of trafficking offenders. Due to a lack of comprehensive victim identification procedures, the Maldives may not have ensured that expatriates subjected to forced labor and prostitution were not inappropriately incarcerated, fined, or otherwise penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked.

Prevention

The Maldives made some progress in preventing human trafficking over the last year. The government did not conduct any anti-trafficking or educational campaigns, nor did it take any measures to reduce demand for forced labor within the country. In late 2010, the Department of Immigration and Emigration (DIE) was designated as a focal point for trafficking, and a Steering Committee was created to work on strengthening counter-trafficking coordination among relevant agencies. The committee developed a Human Trafficking Plan, which was ratified by the cabinet in February. The plan addresses key protection and prevention issues, but does not include a needed law enforcement component. The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives drafted a comprehensive rapid assessment of human trafficking in 2010, but the draft has not been finalized. The Labor Relations Authority (LRA) reported that 16 employment agencies and private companies were blacklisted for labor violations; some of these violations may reflect activities that have contributed to human trafficking. It is unclear if the blacklist was enforced. The LRA inspections found that there were many cases in which migrant workers were unpaid for months; it is unclear whether there was any investigation for human trafficking resulting from these inspections. Birth registration in the Maldives is 73 percent; the government did not take any specific measures to establish the identity of local populations. The Maldives is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

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