The Maldives has been removed from a human trafficking watch list of the US State Department following the first successful prosecution and conviction of traffickers.
The Maldives was on the tier two watch list for the past two years due to the low rate of prosecution as well as inadequate and inconsistent protection for victims. A downgrade to tier three could have entailed non-humanitarian and non-trade sanctions.
According to the State Department’s 2017 trafficking in persons report, the Maldives was upgraded from the watchlist to tier two after the government demonstrated increased anti-trafficking efforts compared to the previous year.
However, the government failed to meet minimum standards in several key areas such as conformity of the domestic trafficking law with the UN TIP Protocol as it does not criminalise all forms of sex and labour trafficking.
The report also flagged the failure to adopt standard operating procedures for victim identification, protection and referral, which prevented proactive identification of victims, and noted the limited dedicated protection services available to trafficking victims.
Following the release of the TIP report Wednesday, Foreign Minister Dr Mohamed Asim called the upgrade to tier two “a strong endorsement of the government’s policies against human trafficking.”
Some 130,000 migrant workers are believed to reside in the Maldives, including 60,000 undocumented workers, the majority of whom are Bangladeshi and Indian men working in the construction and tourism sectors. An unknown number are subjected to “practices indicative of forced labour, including fraudulent recruitment, confiscation of identity and travel documents, withholding or non-payment of wages, and debt bondage,” according to the TIP report.