US downgrades Maldives on human trafficking watch-list

United States (US) state department has downgraded Maldives on a watch-list for human trafficking over the failure to meet minimum standards for elimination.

The US had removed the Maldives from the wristwatch last year following the first successful prosecution and conviction of traffickers.

However, the Maldives government has since failed to “demonstrate increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period,” the 2018 trafficking in persons report said.

"The government’s investigation of possible trafficking cases decreased sharply, possibly as a result of poor victim identification efforts," the report said.

"Trafficking victim protection services were limited—victims lacked regular access to psycho-social support, interpreters, and a dedicated shelter. Therefore Maldives was downgraded to Tier 2 Watch List."

The report also said the country's anti-trafficking law does not conform to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol as its definition of human trafficking is generally predicated on the movement of the victim.

"he government did not adopt standard operating procedures (SOPs) for victim identification, protection, and referral, thereby inhibiting proactive identification of victims and, at times, resulting in the deportation of victims," it said.

Maldives remains a destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking, and a source country for women and children subjected to labor and sex trafficking.

An unknown number of the approximately 100,000 documented and 60,000 undocumented foreign workers in Maldives—primarily Bangladeshi and Indian men in the construction and service sectors—are subjected to practices indicative of forced labor, including fraudulent recruitment, confiscation of identity and travel documents, withholding or non-payment of wages, and debt bondage.

Migrant workers pay approximately USD2,500 to USD4,000 in recruitment fees to work in Maldives, contributing to their risk of debt bondage upon arrival.

In addition to Bangladeshis and Indians, some workers from Sri Lanka, Pakistan, and Nepal reportedly experience recruitment fraud before arriving in Maldives.