A curfew and other restrictions imposed Sunday by the Ihavandhoo council on the Maldives expatriate community has sparked a debate about the treatment of migrant workers in the country.
The restrictions came in the wake of the murder of a Maldivian man in charge of the northern island’s ice plant by his Bangladeshi co-worker.
The council ordered all foreign workers to register within five days, imposed a curfew of 10 pm, and prohibited gathering in public spaces with the exception of Friday afternoons. Foreign workers were also banned from fishing, collecting wood, fronds or coconuts, and participating in events without invitation.
The Local Government Authority, the oversight body for municipal councils, has since quashed the restrictions on legal grounds.
Speaking to the Maldives Independent, Ahmed Tholal, senior project coordinator at Transparency Maldives, observed that the attitude and sentiment towards foreigners remain despite the LGA’s intervention.
“And politicians demonising migrant workers and blaming them for the increase in crime rates when statistics cannot prove it will increase the negative treatment towards migrant workers,” he warned.
“People need to check statistics, but people don’t have the time to check facts. They follow the politicians. It’s very clear this procedure has come from a negative place. Maldivians also treat Bangladeshi workers negatively, and their crimes are magnified in our society because of our negative perception of them.”
He stressed that measures taken to combat crime should not be discriminatory based race or nationality.
The debate was fuelled by articles on local media outlets, such as a report by Sun Online calling migrant workers “a threat to national security”.
The report also cited an anonymous source from the police as saying: “If we look at the past, Maldivians weren’t inclined towards crimes, but because of such foreign workers, crimes are spreading quickly in Maldives.”