In its World Report 2021, Human Rights Watch (HRW) organization heavily critiqued the current administration’s failure to protect migrant workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The report highlights how the pandemic had brought into light the existing inequalities and abuses of this marginalized group, and how the government’s weak efforts had disproportionately affected the livelihoods and wellbeing of migrant workers.
The Maldives has the largest proportion of foreign migrant laborers in South Asia, roughly one-third of the resident population, at least 60,000 of whom are undocumented.
The report highlights how in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, migrant workers suffered longstanding abuses, including wage theft, passport confiscation, and unsafe living and working conditions.
HRW further details how agents use deceptive or fraudulent practices to recruit migrants to work in the Maldives, leaving some of them at risk of debt-based coercion and trafficking.
Moreover, HRW slams the country lacks an asylum system and refugee protection mechanism, leaving people who fear persecution in their home countries with no opportunity to seek protection.
The report also outlines how the government has failed to implement adequate measures to identify and support trafficking victims or investigate and prosecute abusers.