A Maldivian man has been arrested on the island of Gan in Laamu atoll on suspicion of subjecting a Bangladeshi worker to torture and inhumane treatment.
The 35-year-old was taken into custody with a court warrant on Saturday night.
“The Bangladeshi man came to the police station and complained that he was being beaten up and ill-treated by his sponsor. External signs of physical abuse were found on his body on inspection,” the police spokesman told The Maldives Independent.
The police have since learned that the labourer was denied food and that electricity was switched off in his living quarters after 10pm.
“He has not been paid for the last six months,” the spokesman added. The Gan magistrate court has since extended the suspect’s remand detention to five days.
The police also said in a statement that the case is being investigated as a “serious crime.”
“As foreigners and especially expatriate workers do hard work in the Maldives after leaving their family and country, they face inhumane treatment and problems such as non-payment of wages,” the statement noted.
Some 124,000 migrant workers are believed to reside in the Maldives, including more than 30,000 undocumented workers, many of whom are forced to live in squalid conditions without regular pay.
In June last year, an undocumented Bangladeshi worker was found dead with severe head injuries at an uninhabited house in Gan.
A Maldivian was charged with murder the following month. The trial is ongoing at the criminal court in Malé.
The murder victim, identified only as Bassan, was the third migrant worker killed in 2015, prompting expatriates to plan a protest in Malé.
But the demonstration was called off after the department of immigration threatened to cancel visas and take action against the employers of the migrant workers participating in the protest.
In April last year, two migrant workers were kidnapped, robbed and beaten in a recruitment and employment agency in Malé.
In 2014, the police rescued a Bangladeshi held captive in an accommodation block for migrant workers. A Bangladeshi was discovered in chains in 2009.
In July 2015, the Maldives was placed back on the US State Department’s tier 2 watch list for human trafficking over the lack of progress in the government’s anti-human trafficking efforts.
If downgraded to tier 3, the lowest tier, the Maldives may be subject to non-humanitarian and non-trade sanctions.
The 2015 Trafficking in Persons report noted that migrant workers in the Maldives experienced “forced labour, including fraudulent recruitment, confiscation of identity and travel documents, withholding or non-payment of wages, and debt bondage.”
Only one individual has been convicted of human-trafficking in the Maldives so far.
Maldivian judges have now pledged to tackle the issue.