A group of expatriate workers protested in the capital on Monday, over unpaid wages.
While the protest began near Ghiyasuddin School in the morning, RaajjeMV understands that this was following a long drawn out issue of unpaid wages as well as due to lack of communication from the employer.
However, the company that these expatriate workers are employed at is not clear.
Police said that officers were dispatched to the area and that they had succeeded in controlling it and dispersing the crowd.
While RaajjeMV understands that about 50 workers took part in the protest, public gatherings of more than 30 are not allowed as part of the efforts to control the spread of Covid-19.
There have recently been a number of protests by expatriate workers, over the same issue of unpaid salaries. It all started out from the Bodufinolhu island incident, where a group of expats took 13 locals as hostages. The situation was controlled without any injuries. Their employer, RIX Company, is being investigated by authorities over alleged human trafficking violations.
While over 80 expatriate workers were arrested in July alone following the protests, international NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on authorities to drop charges and release all those held "for engaging in peaceful protest, and instead to address allegations of human trafficking and other abuses against the island nation’s sizable migrant worker population."
Authorities estimate that there are nearly 200,000 migrant workers in the Maldives including over 60,000 undocumented. The Covid-19 outbreak in the country has disproportionately affected the migrant workers, due to poor living and working conditions.
Noting that migrants make up more than half of the country’s confirmed Covid-19 cases, HRW stressed that this has spurred reports of discrimination and growing stigma.
HRW further called on the government to ratify the International Convention on Migrant Workers and the International Labour Organization’s 2014 Protocol to the Forced Labour Convention, which protects victims of forced labor, and enforce its provisions, as well as uphold the country’s international obligations to respect the right of everyone in the country to peacefully protest.
The United States ranked Maldives at “Tier 2 Watch List” in its 2020 Trafficking in Persons report, documenting the Maldives’ failure to prevent “practices indicative of forced labor, including fraudulent recruitment, confiscation of identity and travel documents, withholding or non-payment of wages, and debt-based coercion,” as well as human trafficking and exploitation of trafficking victims.
Defence Minister Mariya Didi said that claims of withheld wages were a pretext for migrant workers to stage protests and cause unrest, while defence chief Abdulla Shamaal described it as “an invasion.”
HRW called this an attempt to invoke national security “to deflect from their own failure to curb rampant abuses against migrant workers.”