Maldives Police Service has launched an investigation into the human trafficking allegations against RIX Company Private Limited, the company developing a tourist resort at Bodufinolhu island of Baa atoll.
Confirming this, police also accused the company of exploiting its workers, as well as failing to provide employment fees on behalf of its foreign employees.
Further, RIX Maldives is accused of sourcing trafficked expatriate workers from various islands and forcing them to continue working without giving their salaries. Police also claims that the company had threatened workers who voiced their concern over the failure to provide wages, saying that they will be terminated and sent back to capital Malé.
While the migrant workers at RIX Maldives have been protesting for months over unpaid wages, the situation escalated last week with the workers taking 13 Maldivians as hostages. While all the hostages were rescued early Friday morning, 19 of the workers that partook in the protests were arrested and subsequently remanded by 15 days.
RIX Maldives has admitted to not paying the migrant workers for month, claiming that this was due to the project owner Seal Maldives’ failure to make payments.
The whole issue has turned into a he said, she said situation, with both RIX Maldives and Seal Maldives denying each other’s claims.
As such, while RIX Maldives said that the project owner had provided ‘a fraction of the total owed upon completion of the project’, Seal Maldives denies this and said that it had paid even more than owed.
Seal Maldives also accused RIX Maldives of neglecting the rights of its migrant workers.
In an interview to RaajjeTV on Sunday, RIX Maldives' lawyer said that they made the migrant workers continue to work despite not being able to pay wages as Seal Maldives had assured them of payment and added that they were told that the delay was due to 'a loan being processed'.
Local anti-corruption NGO, Transparency Maldives described the Bodufinolhu unrest as “a consequence of injustices suffered by migrant workers in the Maldives, every day” and called on the state to investigate the issues that led to the unrest and take legal action against those who violated migrant workers’ rights, instead of re-victimising them.
Navaanavai also called on authorities to release the workers arrested in the Bodufinolhu and to drop all charges, stressing that “it is clear that the incident at Bodufinolhu was a direct result of modern-day slavery that continues with impunity due to government inaction to prosecute human traffickers and employers complicit in the process”.
Migrant workers held a protest in the capital's suburban district Hulhumale' on Monday as well, over the same issue of unpaid salaries.