A group of migrant workers staged a demonstration in capital Male’ on Wednesday, demanding the authorities to facilitate their repatriation, following the loss of income and consequential hardships caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The 50 or so protesters, who gathered in the parking lot of Heenaamaage on the city’s main road, stated that they lacked official travel documents required to fly back home.
Moreover, the migrant workers revealed that they no longer had money to afford basic necessities and food due to unemployment.
Noting that there were no possibilities of renting out housing, the workers also expressed that they had no means to help their families back home.
“When we return, we can figure something out with our families”, one of the expats said.
According to the demonstrators, they received no response from relevant authorities even after the matter was notified repeatedly.
Therefore, the workers gathered in protest to get the authorities’ attention. They noted that the gathering was not held near their country’s High Commission in the Maldives as protests held in the vicinities of diplomatic missions pose issues.
The expats were holding a peaceful demonstration in the parking lot when Maldives Police Service arrived at the scene and ordered them to break up the protest.
With that, the migrant workers promptly left the area without any objections or commotion.
Wednesday’s gathering was one of many expat-led demonstrations recently held in the Maldives.
On July 2, 203 expatriates protested on Bodufinolhu, Baa Atoll, against six months of unpaid wages and barred 13 local staff from leaving the island. Maldives Police Service arrested 19 individuals during the operation to de-escalate the hostage situation.
Migrant workers employed by Thai company Island Expert Pvt Ltd also staged various demonstrations in reclaimed suburb Hulhumale’, causing property damage and attacking security forces.
These protests take place amidst renewed concerns from rights groups as well as the general public, over the continued exploitation of expatriate workers in the Maldives. Violations reported include that of human trafficking, withholding of wages, poor living conditions, and other human rights violations.
Left-wing political movement Navaanavai, on Wednesday, condemned the state’s response to recent protests, accusing the government of continuing to further “victimise migrant workers” by the use of excessive police force, initiating legal action against them and fuelling xenophobic sentiments instead of holding employers accountable.
On July 13, an emergency motion was submitted to the parliament calling for immediate action against undocumented expats, claiming that migrant workers in the Maldives posed a “national security threat”.
Navaanavai has established a hotline for workers facing redundancy, pay cuts and unfair treatment amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The movement which advocates for social justice urged workers to call +960 9477309 and register any such complaints.
Full details are available at the link below:
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