Local NGO, Navaanavai, has called on authorities to immediately release the 19 migrant workers arrested this past weekend, and to drop all charges.
The 19 workers were arrested on Friday, following an unrest in Bodufinolhu island of Baa atoll; an island under resort development. The migrant workers, who have been protesting over months of unpaid wages, are to have taken 12 Maldivians as hostages on Thursday. The matter was resolved the next day, and 19 workers were taken into police custody. They were remanded by 15 days, on Saturday, by the Eydhafushi Magistrate Court.
The issue did not arise overnight, the workers have been peacefully protesting since May.
The Bodufinolhu resort development project is being carried out by RIX Maldives, a company owned by parliament representative for Milandhoo constituency, Ali Riza. While he has admitted to not having paid salaries of the workers for months, he blames this on Seal Maldives, the contractor.
In a series of Twitter posts, Navaanavai said 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”.
Further noting that justice “should always be a process of healing, rather than a drive to convict and punish”, the NGO stressed that “migrant workers, especially Bangladeshi labourers, have been suffering immensely in this country even before the Covid-19 pandemic”.
The government’s policy of detaining and deportation of migrants who protest against wage theft and exploitation is an outrageous violation of their basic human rights.
Navaanavai further called on the authorities to “stop the forced deportation of migrants, facilitate their return to work under safe and dignified conditions so they may be able to earn and support their families back home during this crisis”.