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Page added on August 19, 2010

Bangladesh investigates broker over worker trafficking to Maldives worth US$3.6 million

Bangladesh investigates broker over worker trafficking to Maldives worth US$3.6 million thumbnail

The government of Bangladesh is investigating a Bangladeshi broker believed to be involved in a potential employment trafficking scam worth US$3.6 million in the Maldives.

Bangladesh’s Ministry of Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment has launched a case against the recruitment agent who was attempting to send 2800 Bangladeshi workers to the Maldives, according to former Bangladeshi High Commissioner Professor Selina Mohsin.

“He has been caught and there is now a case against him. He is in a very difficult situation, as he should be – we want brokers to be caught,” Professor Mohsin told Minivan News.

Professor Mohsin has vocally called for stricter controls on the employment of Bangladeshi workers in the Maldives, greater vigilance among the authorities, and a clamp down on unscrupulous recruitment brokers.

In an earlier interview with Minivan News, she explained that brokers solicit a fee of up to US$4000 from often illiterate rural workers through promises of well paid jobs in the Maldives. It was not uncommon for workers to sell their land, go into debt or move their wives and families in with relatives to be able to afford this fee, Professor Mohsin told Minivan News.

The workers are then brought to the Maldives and either paid far less than they were promised or abandoned at the airport with nothing but an unreachable phone number, she explained.

The 30-50 such cases presenting at the High Commission every day, “without passports and in very dire straits”, suggest an exploitative worker trafficking industry worth upwards of US$43.8 million a year – a sum rivalling the country’s US$46 million fishing industry.

The government estimates there to be 35,000 Bangladeshi nationals working in the Maldives – over 11 percent of the total population – of which the authorities consider 17,000 to be employed legally.

“The Maldives brokers not the only unscrupulous parties – the Bangladeshi brokers are even more unscruplous,” Professor Mohsin said. “If we can catch 1-2 brokers, it will put the others on alert.”

The High Commission had forwarded details of the Maldivian counterpart involved in the US$3.6 million operation to the Maldives Foreign Ministry, Professor Mohsin noted.

Foreign Minister Dr Ahmed Shaheed confirmed the Ministry had received the information last year, “raising questions about a party who applied to recruit a large number of workers.”

“After she alerted us we verified the matter with the [Human Resources] Ministry, which confirmed it was a genuine recruitment party and quota,” Dr Shaheed said.

The Immigration Department has previously complained that workers are being brought into the country by rogue recruitment agents “juggling” the labour quotas allocated by the Ministry of Human Resources.

Workers are brought into the Maldives on the labour quotas of one company before being ‘resold’ to another party on arrival. In some cases the workers will even arrive in the Maldives having been told they will be working in a country such as Malaysia, Chief Immigration Officer Hassan Khaleel told Minivan News in June.

It was quite difficult for immigration to determine if someone had been trafficked on their arrival “because be don’t have a Bangladeshi speaker”, he noted.

“After they work a for while and gain a grasp of Dhivehi it is sometimes possible to interview them on their departure,” he said.

Professor Mohsin acknowledged the responsibility of the Bangladeshi government in preventing the trafficking of its nationals, but noted that Bangladesh “is a huge country with many airports – and even if we could control it, we are bordered with India.”

“The Maldives is a small country with one international airport, and it is much easier to stop the problem there,” she said.

She added that she had submitted a memorandum of understanding on manpower to the Maldives government and the Minister of Human Resources in October, streamlining the process of worker recruitment, but “it is taking a long time. Bangladesh is ready to sign, so I hope [the Maldives] will finalise it soon.”

Dr Shaheed confirmed “there is a discussion going on over tightening the loopholes allowing [trafficking] to take place. It is a matter of great concern for us that trafficking is going on.”

Professor Mohsin acknowledged elements of the Maldives government for their support in tackling the problem, including President Mohamed Nasheed, Home Minister Mohamed Shihab “and particularly Vice President [Dr Mohamed Waheed Hassan], who was instrumental in helping us legalise 17,000 Bangladeshi workers currently in the Maldives.”

“We also received good support from the Police Commissioner when it became necessary to protect the High commission from employers seeking to intimidate workers,” she noted.

“I worked very hard to strengthen our relationship and have deep appreciation for the Maldives’ heritage – the resorts are enchanting. I had a wonderful experience in the Maldives and made many good friends. We want Bangladesh to be able to provide skilled workers, but we don’t want human suffering to take place,” she said.

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14 Comments on "Bangladesh investigates broker over worker trafficking to Maldives worth US$3.6 million"

  1. john on Thu, 19th Aug 2010 6:04 PM 

    Dear High Commisioner as a person who has a reasonable knowledge of the Maldivian society I want share my belief with u that their is no single project in the maldives that requires 2800 labourers. The largest projects like the construction of a resort would only require some 700 to 1000 at a max. I want to share my belief that if some body in the maldivian govt has approved that kind of numbers then you have found your culprit at the Maldivian end. Its good that you have started inquiries at your end but as happens most of the times i hope that this thing doesnt fizzle out. By the way if you are any good with maths why dont you try to analyse the life styles of the persons approving the labour quotas. twice annual overseas trips. arpartments in foreign lands and a lifestyle that requires one to be a millionaire all the while on a govt salary of 15000MRF or less with no other visible income, the maldives also has an anti corruption agency of sorts… get my drift

  2. Hani on Thu, 19th Aug 2010 6:30 PM 

    I hope the Maldivian contact gets what they deserve too. It’s such a shame human trafficking is still so widespread. There needs to be consequences for those depraved wastes of oxygen who think it’s ok to benefit from the suffering of others.

    The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives won’t shut up about the conditions faced by prisoners. Those prison cells looked like resorts compared to some of the places workers are forced to live.

    Or are foreigners not considered “humans”.

  3. Shan on Thu, 19th Aug 2010 6:43 PM 

    This lady, prof.Mushin is really great.
    She is a classic example for other foreign diplomats here who just enjoy the perks. well don madam

  4. Ahmed Aliased on Thu, 19th Aug 2010 7:49 PM 

    About. Freakin’. Time.

  5. Shihab on Thu, 19th Aug 2010 11:32 PM 

    if only we had one Muhsin amongst us… and JJR hope you will keep updates of this important story to the end…

  6. Fasy on Fri, 20th Aug 2010 3:11 AM 

    Because they don’t have a Bangla speaker? Hire people you dimwits, or get a Bangladeshi NGO working on trafficking to send volunteers etc to work with you.

  7. Baazu on Fri, 20th Aug 2010 4:35 AM 

    I see a frustrated lady who is accusing Maldivians for shortcomings at the Bangladeshi immigration authorities and control. In my view, it is the responsibility of the Bangladeshi government to control their borders (no matter how big it is or how many airports they have). If the Bangladeshis are entering and working in Maldives in accordance with the employment and other relevant laws and regulations of the Maldives, i don’t know there should be an issue here in the Maldives. Professor Muhsin, or who ever it is, pls stop blaming Maldives for your incompetence. Or is this Muhsin paying Minivannews to act as her mouth peace to play this blame game. Minivannews has been promoting this particular individual for quite some time. Shame!

  8. Shutter on Fri, 20th Aug 2010 3:39 PM 

    Meeves vareh ge kameh! Bangaalain aa nulhaa mi gaumuga kuni kolhu ves ukaalaane meehe nuvaane!

    Dhivehin beynun vaany fen varu nethas TIE alhaafa, bodu meyzu ga indhegen chat kuran!

    Bangalain aa ekieega ves ulheveyka neh, nulhaa ves ulheveyka neh!

  9. Ibrahim on Fri, 20th Aug 2010 8:32 PM 

    Baazu. It is the responsibility of both countries to stop human trafficking between them. Most Bangladeshis entering into the Maldives would not be aware of what the laws and regulations in the Maldives are. They would be seeking to improve their conditions of living and help their families towards a better life. Those brokers and their Maldivian contacts are taking advantage of these people.

    Also a lot of Maldivians are racist against Bangladeshis and other South Asian Expats working here. Its an ugly truth.

    Although I am surprised Bangladesh is taking action only now. This issue has been going on for years, and I haven’t seen an adequate Bangladeshi reaction till now.

  10. badr on Fri, 20th Aug 2010 9:39 PM 

    I really did not want to comment and it annoys me to repeat the same comments in relation to foreign employment over and over again, but I still hope that someone or some people would have some sense and get this right at least for once!

    In short we need a complete overhaul of our employment industry if we’re going to solve these problems.

    The main problem lies in the Ministry of Human Resource Youth and Sports. It has always been the most corrupt ministry in the country. And it is because of their lax regulations and in some cases complicity in these trafficking cases that has brought the situation to the current state. I have worked in this field for over 15 years. I have come across employers and employees too with grievances and if the government wants to solve the problem, listen to both sides. The only way you can solve a problem is by talking to all those involved and affected, not by taking individual administrative decisions that are totally devoid of any negotiation between the parties. And someone please remind Hassan Latheef that he is also the Minister for Human Resource, not just for Youth and Sports!!! He seems to have forgotten that completely! As one of the oldest Manpower recruiting agencies in the Maldives we have tried to work with the Labour Ministry (as before) and the Department of Immigration. But they didn’t even bother reply to our repeated requests, let alone take any action.

    And one should wonder why this is mostly happening to Bangladeshi workers and not the other foreign nationals among us. Some would say that the Bangladeshi workers are not very educated or wise people. But the true fact is that (if anyone is willing to open their eyes and believe the obvious) – it is the Bangladeshi High Commission. Unlike the Sri Lankan or Indian High Commission who take care of their workers in Maldives, the Bangladeshi High Commission did not bother at all about their own people. All this talk has sprung up because of a renewed interest in HUMAN RIGHTS in Maldivian culture which has come about (very rightly) under Nasheed’s presidency. Human rights can only be fostered when you do justice! A government does not take sides, it serves all!

    This whole issue can be solved very easily but only if the government departments have the political will to do so. It will create a lot of tensions in the employment industry and some big companies who have taken part in this trafficking may not be very happy with the outcome. And I think that is the reason why the previous administration and likewise the current administration are unwilling to tackle this.

    This is not an issue about “Bangaalhis” or a question ‘Can we live in paradise without our Bangladeshi workers?’ This is about our employment industry and the responsibilities of government regulation!

  11. Shuaib on Sat, 21st Aug 2010 10:44 AM 

    The Police have always suspected officials in the Bangladesh Embassy in Maldives to be involved in this racket. What does Professor Mohsen have to say about that? Does anyone know what role the Bangladesh Embassy plays when a worker dies in Male and family consent to bury is required? Are they really asking for compensation for the family of the deceased? Where does that money go?

    And Golhaa government placed a massage therapist and pimp as the Maldives ambassador in Bangladesh!And the masseuse is now massaging everyone in town!

  12. rasheed on Sat, 21st Aug 2010 1:38 PM 

    We cannot control what happens in Bangladesh. However, we have to take responsibility for those we hire and tret them humanely.

  13. ahmd on Sun, 22nd Aug 2010 3:57 AM 

    badr wrote I repeat:
    “The only way you can solve a problem is by talking to all those involved and affected, not by taking individual administrative decisions that are totally devoid of any negotiation between the parties.”

    The government please have dialog and listen to concerns then make decisions.

  14. Mikalo on Sun, 22nd Aug 2010 1:20 PM 

    The lady’s work must be appreciated where it should be!
    This has been a well organized racket including ranks in both our countries!
    However it is good that some beans are spilling out and growing!
    This lady some how seems to be aiming higher, perhaps!
    Would she keep up this pressure when she gets there?
    It is hoped JJR will let us have more of these kinds of rackets going on including the US$!!!


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