Two expatriates who escaped from a detention centre on the capital’s suburb Hulhumalé last week were caught on Monday.
The pair was among five Bangladeshi men who broke out of the expat detention centre after tearing through a tin fence.
Ahmed Lugman, the spokesman of the Maldives Correctional Services, said the two men were apprehended in Malé. “They were arrested near the southwest harbor area. They have been brought back to detention now,” he said.
The five escapees included one man detained on suspicion of peddling drugs, Lugman said. The other four were accused of breaching work visa rules.
The MCS is searching for the three escapees with the help of the police.
Undocumented workers and others arrested for visa violations or criminal offences are kept at the detention centre until deportation.
Some 130,000 migrant workers are believed to reside in the Maldives, including 60,000 undocumented workers, the majority of whom are Bangladeshi and Indian men working in the construction and tourism sectors.
An unknown number are subjected to “practices indicative of forced labour, including fraudulent recruitment, confiscation of identity and travel documents, withholding or non-payment of wages, and debt bondage,” according to the US State Department’s 2017 trafficking in persons report.
In June this year, the Maldives was removed from a human trafficking watch list of the US State Department following the first successful prosecution and conviction of traffickers.
The Maldives was on the tier two watch list for the past two years due to the low rate of prosecution as well as inadequate and inconsistent protection for victims. A downgrade to tier three could have entailed non-humanitarian and non-trade sanctions.
“The government acceded to the 2000 UN [Trafficking in Persons] Protocol, launched awareness campaigns and amended its Employment Act to require employers to establish and pay employees’ salaries through bank accounts,” according to the TIP report.
However, the government failed to meet minimum standards in several key areas such as conformity of the domestic trafficking law with the UN TIP Protocol as it does not criminalise all forms of sex and labour trafficking.
A government report in 2011 revealed human trafficking to be the second most lucrative industry after tourism – worth an estimated US$123 million a year.
The first cases under the 2013 anti-human trafficking law were prosecuted last year. The first conviction was secured in November when three Bangladeshi men were sentenced to 10 years in jail for sex trafficking.
The Prosecutor General’s office and the immigration department blamed the refusal of the courts to accept electronic documents as evidence, including employment visas for migrant workers, for the “disproportionately small number of prosecutions”.
The authorities also previously blamed the victims’ failure to cooperate.