Last Updated: Monday, 22 December 2014, 15:24 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Maldives

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Maldives, 19 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fe30caf48.html [accessed 22 December 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)

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. It is also a source and destination country for women and girls subjected to sex trafficking. An unknown number of the 80,000 to 110,000 foreign workers that government officials estimate are currently working in Maldives – primarily in the construction and service sectors – face conditions indicative of forced labor: fraudulent recruitment, confiscation of identity and travel documents, withholding or nonpayment of wages, or debt bondage. According to government sources, up to 44,000 of these workers do not have legal status in the country, although both legal and illegal workers were vulnerable to conditions of forced labor. According to a diplomatic source, an estimated 50 percent of Bangladeshi workers in Maldives are not documented and a number of these workers are victims of trafficking. Migrant workers pay the equivalent of $1,000 to $4,000 in recruitment fees in order to migrate to Maldives. In addition to Bangladeshis and Indians, some migrants from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Nepal reportedly experienced recruitment fraud before arriving in Maldives. Recruitment agents in source countries generally collude with employers and agents in Maldives to facilitate fraudulent recruitment and forced labor of migrant workers.

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 internal sex trafficking of Maldivian girls also is a problem. 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.

The Government of Maldives does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking. The government has not demonstrated evidence of increasing efforts to address human trafficking over the previous year; therefore, Maldives is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for a third consecutive year. Maldives was granted a waiver from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3 because its government has a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute making significant efforts to meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is devoting sufficient resources to implement that plan. The government continued to lack systematic procedures for identifying victims of trafficking among vulnerable populations and, during the reporting period, did not take sufficient law enforcement steps or concrete actions to protect trafficking victims and prevent trafficking in Maldives. Counter-trafficking efforts are impeded by a lack of understanding of the issue, a lack of legal structure, and the absence of a legal definition of trafficking.

Recommendations for the Maldives: Enact legislation prohibiting and punishing all forms of trafficking in persons; clearly 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; ensure that changes to labor migration policies for the purpose of reducing human trafficking do not restrict legal migration; 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 Maldives undertook minimal anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the year. Although Maldives does not have laws prohibiting all human trafficking offenses, its constitution prohibits forced labor and slavery, and the Employment Act of 2009 prohibits most forms of forced labor. The Child Sex Abuse Act (2009) criminalizes the prostitution of children with a penalty of up to 25 years' imprisonment for violations. However, Article 14 of the act provides that, if a person is legally married to a child under Islamic Sharia, none of the offenses specified in the legislation, including child prostitution, would be considered a crime. The government continued to develop its draft anti-trafficking law during the reporting period. The government did not prosecute any new human trafficking cases. Of the two child prostitution investigations noted in the 2011 TIP Report, one investigation is ongoing and the other did not lead to a prosecution due to lack of evidence. Police coordinated with Sri Lankan police in an investigation of Sri Lankan women forced into prostitution in Maldives by suspected Maldivian traffickers.

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. In 2011, 13 suspected victims of human trafficking and two suspected human traffickers were intercepted and deported in three cases of human trafficking identified at the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport. The government 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. 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 government may not have ensured that migrants 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. In April and May 2011, the Department of Immigration and Emigration (DIE) conducted two one-day training programs on trafficking victim identification, training 17 labor inspectors and 35 police officers.

Prevention

Maldives made some progress in preventing human trafficking during the year. In March 2012, the government approved an anti-trafficking action plan for 2011-12. In January 2012, the government established an Anti Human-Trafficking and People Smuggling Unit, which is charged with implementing the action plan. In April 2011, the DIE established an integrated investigation unit with the Maldives Police Services, and through this unit the government has investigated an unknown number of ongoing cases involving fraudulent recruitment. Two foreigners were deported as a result of these investigations. Police reportedly raided and closed recruitment agencies by court order for further investigation when there was evidence that the agencies' operations involved fraud and forgery. However, no labor recruiter or broker was punished or fined for fraudulent recruitment practices. During the reporting period, the DIE conducted lectures for a college on migration and human trafficking, held anti-trafficking events during a human rights day fair, and conducted a training program for immigration officials. The Labor Relations Authority prepared leaflets on workers' rights in Dhivehi and English for distribution by employers to employees and are translating the leaflets into Bangla, spoken by Bangladeshi migrant workers. In January 2012, the government declared a moratorium on the issuance of new work permits to Bangladeshis seeking to migrate to the country for employment, a move which was intended to address the vulnerability of unemployed Bangladeshis to trafficking. The government continued a program, started in 2009, to register unregistered migrant workers. The government made efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex by investigating and prosecuting clients of prostitution. Maldives is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

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