The Maldives has acceded to the the ‘Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children,’ a protocol to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime.
Speaking after a signing ceremony this morning, Foreign Minister Dunya Maumoon said the accession to the protocol “reflects the Government’s on-going efforts to curb and stamp out offences relating to trafficking throughout the country and towards the promotion and protection of the rights of those vulnerable to trafficking, including the migrant workers.”
The protocol was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2000 and came into force in December 2003. It has since been ratified by 169 countries.
Some 124,000 migrant workers are believed to reside in the Maldives, including more than 30,000 undocumented workers.
In July, the Maldives was placed back on the US State Department’s tier 2 watch list for human trafficking over 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 nonpayment of wages, and debt bondage.”
Dunya meanwhile went on to highlight a “multitude of challenges” the Maldives faces in implementing the 2013 anti-trafficking law, including investigating and prosecuting offenders and providing attention to potential victims.
“Being a small island developing state with limited means, the Maldives needs to develop and strengthen efforts in identifying potential victims of human trafficking,” she said.
“I am happy to announce that the victim identification regulations stipulated under the Anti-Trafficking legislations has now been endorsed by the National Anti-Trafficking Steering Committee earlier this December.”
The government has recently come under fire over plans to introduce a three percent tax on remittances. Human rights defenders say the tax will affect the most vulnerable of the Maldives’ expatriate labour force, a majority of whom are unskilled labourers who earn only a few hundred dollars a month.
In late March, migrant workers in Malé attempted to stage a protest following the murder of two Bangladeshi nationals in a spate of violence against expatriates. 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.