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Desperate for money migrant workers do additional odd jobs to meet their basic needs. With no assistance in addressing their issues, workers are left to fend for themselves.

A group of construction workers working for a company based in the Maldives were denied their monthly salaries for 8 months. They finally stopped working and asked the company to pay them what they were owed and make arrangements for them to return back to their country. However, the company turned down their request.

Desperate and without any money to even meet their basic daily needs, the group approached the Indian High Commission in Maldives for help.

When the High Commission failed to assist them, they approached our legal advice centre for help. We contacted the company on their behalf and after several discussions, the company agreed to pay the group their due salaries and make arrangements for them to return home to India.

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‘The advocacy and legal aid centre helped us to get our unpaid salaries and negotiated with our company to send us back to India. Before coming to the legal aid centre we also went to Labor Relations Authority and the Indian High Commission. But it all became possible because of the work of the legal aid centre. We are really thankful for the help.’


The estimated official figure of migrant population in Maldives is 140,000. The unofficial estimates are above 200,000 bringing the size of the migrant population in Maldives up to almost two thirds of the total Maldivian population of the country.

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Migrant workers collect garbage from households daily for a small monthly fee.

Regardless of this figure, migrant workers have few rights and state redress mechanisms are not accessible to these workers, further victimizing those who are already being exploited in forced labor conditions. The language barrier and the lack of public interest litigators in the country further limits their access to the justice system. Maldives has been ranked in the Tier Two of the US State Department’s Watch List for Human Trafficking for the fourth year in a row.

Migrant workers often sell all their assets to come to the Maldives and are reliant on their new employers for sustenance for themselves and their families back at home. Often times, they face threats or even violence for speaking up about injustices. Their living quarters are generally provided by their employers, so if they are dismissed they also lose their housing. The majority of the cases that Transparency Maldives’ free legal advice center receives from migrant workers include complaints of non-payment of wages, often for months, withholding of travel documents and identification and inhumane living conditions.

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Migrant workers sort and collect garbage in Thilafushi, an island fully reclaimed by dumping garbage into a lagoon. They endure toxic smoke and a hazardously polluted environment daily.

Migrant workers live and work in unimaginable conditions, sometimes being forced to do work that is not permitted in their work permits. They are underpaid or unpaid, their passports and identification documents withheld by agents and employers, effectively crippling workers from rectifying their situation or reaching out to the justice system.Our advocacy and legal aid center provides free legal advice and assistance to expatriates and Maldivian citizens. We have assisted over 560 migrant workers with cases of non-payment of wages, unacceptable working conditions, poor housing, withholding of their passport by employment agencies and employers, and being forced to do work that is not permitted as per their work permit.

These are not newly emerging issues and they closely reflect the findings reported in U.S Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report (June 2013). The report notes fraudulent recruitment, confiscation of identity and travel documents, withholding or non-payment of wages, or debt bondages as some of the forced labor situations faced by the migrant workers in Maldives.

While the necessary regulations such as Regulation on Expatriates Working in Maldives and Regulation on Bringing Expatriates to the Maldives for the purpose of Employment are in place, the issues arise from the lack of implementation, monitoring and enforcement of said regulations. With the Anti-Human Trafficking legislation that was ratified in December, 2013 withholding passports or identification and forms of exploitation of migrant workers has been criminalized.

We encourage exploited workers who need legal assistance and advice to come to us. Corruption and human trafficking are inter-related. Human trafficking often happens due to systemic governance failures, often caused by corruption. The cases and complaints submitted to our advocacy and legal aid centre shed light on the linkages between the two issues. Corruption and human trafficking are two sides of the same coin and need to be addressed as a matter of urgency, to prevent further abuse of workers rights.


A group of Bangladeshi laborers employed by a Maldivian company approached our advocacy and legal aid centre with their grievances. A story that reflects the condition of many other migrant workers like them in the Maldives. They were ill-treated, stripped of their basic rights and forced to work for 13 hours a day. They worked without resistance because they feared losing their only source of income to support them and their family back in Bangladesh.


Migrant workers often do physically straining odd jobs in addition to their day jobs to make ends meet.

Migrant workers in Maldives live in unhygienic and cramped conditions. It is the norm for 50 or more workers to sleep in 8 hours shifts in 20 x 10 ft spaces.

For six months, they received no payment. They went to their employer repeatedly, explaining that they need the money to feed themselves and their families. Their employer refused to pay them, telling them that the company is struggling financially.

They filed a complaint against the company at the Labor Relations Authority and were met with vengeance. As punishment employer cut the electricity from their living quarters.

Desperate and fearful, they came to our advocacy and legal aid centre. We wrote to the Human Rights Commission of the Maldives explaining the situation and asking if a solution could be found.

Our intervention led to a positive outcome and helped solve their immediate problems. Electricity in their living quarters was restored within 24 hours of complaining to the Human Rights Commission.
The case is under investigation by HRCM. At our advocacy and legal aid centre, we are monitoring the situation to ensure that they get their due wages paid to them in full.


When the only education loan scheme for students in Maldives announced awardees, ALAC received complaints from some applicants who pointed out inconsistencies in how the points were given to different applicants and alleged that some applicants were unduly favoured when awarding points. Following ALAC’s intervention, Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) took on the case and a re-evaluation of the applicants was ordered.

The Tertiary Education Loan Scheme, worth MVR 68 million (about US$ 4.4 million), was launched in June 2013 by the Ministry of Education. The scheme facilitates tertiary education opportunities in the Maldives as well as abroad. Under the scheme students were allowed to apply for study abroad if the courses they apply for were not available in the Maldives. A total of 650 students applied for the scheme, out of which 250 were to be chosen.

As the Ministry of Education was planning to award the loans on the day after the applicants getting the loans were announced, ALAC advised the complainants to go directly to the ACC and lodge the complaint as an urgent case. ALAC coordinated with the complainants during the complaint lodging process to the conclusion of the issue by ACC. ACC acted on the complaint immediately, stopping the awarding ceremony and ordering the Ministry of Education to re-evaluate the vetting procedure.

Read more about the case here http://minivannews.com/politics/acc-orders-re-evaluation-of-overseas-student-loan-scheme-74704


Migrant workers sort and collect garbage in Thilafushi, an island fully reclaimed by dumping garbage into a lagoon. The migrant workers -mostly undocumented- endure toxic smoke and a heavily polluted environment daily. Oftentimes, in instances of accidents or workers who develop serious health conditions do not seek medical care as it may mean their visa status may be reported to the authorities, resulting in potential repatriation or expulsion.

Transparency Maldives conducted outreach activities in Thilafushi to provide with basic information on administrative processes, fees and access to immigration authorities. An exchange fellow from TI- Bangladesh helps us communicate with migrant workers as most cannot speak Dhivehi or English.


Advocacy & Legal Advice Center (ALAC) is a separate center established within Transparency Maldives (TM) to provide free legal advice to victims and witnesses of corruption. The citizens can pursue corruption related complaints by:

Calling ALAC’s toll-free number: (800) 3003 567

 

Visiting ALAC office: MF Building, 7th Floor, Chaandhanee Magu, Male’

 

Via email: alac@transparencymaldives.org

 

ALAC, in addition to free legal consultation also conducts outreach programs to create public awareness about the detrimental effects of corruption.

 

ALAC would work with the government, independent institutions, NGO’s, private law firms and other relevant organizations and, would undertake advocacy to bring about broader systematic changes needed to tackle and curb corruption.

 

ALAC was officially launched on June 10, 2012, and it is the first legal advice center established in the Maldives to provide free legal services.

 

Prior to its launching, ALAC has worked in building relationship and establishing working partnership with several key stakeholders. This initial pre-launch work resulted in successful signing of ALAC’s first MoU with Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) of Maldives. In addition to that, initial meetings have been held between ALAC and 18 other key institutions including government ministries, independent state institutions and judiciary. MoU drafts have been sent to 11 of these institutions and discussions are on-going on finalizing and signing the MoUs.

 

The successful official launching ceremony, with media coverage and invitees from public and private sector opened the opportunity to introduce ALAC to the general public and encourage citizens to actively participate in anti-corruption work.

 

Speaking at the ALAC’s launching event, the chief guest, President of ACC Mr. Hassan Lutfy said “the center would make the Commission’s work a lot more efficient”. Mr. Lutfy also expressed his satisfaction with TM’s effort in abolishing corruption, the assistance TM provided to ACC, and called the stakeholders to lend their support to ALAC.

 

ALAC Launching

 

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From day one of ALAC’s successful official launching, ALAC’s toll-free line has received several calls and many have visited ALAC office to sought advice.


Advocacy & Legal Advice Center (ALAC) is a separate center established within Transparency Maldives (TM) to provide free legal advice to victims and witnesses of corruption. ALAC is an AUS-AID funded project initiated in October 2011. The Centre was officially launched and provision of its services started on June 10, 2012.

ALAC is a platform for citizens to voice out their grievances and to empower individuals to pursue corruption related complaints.

The objective of the ALAC is:
– To provide free legal advice and assistance to victims and witnesses of corruption
– Help citizens pursue corruption-related cases
– Undertake advocacy for broader reform

The citizens can pursue corruption related complaints by:
– Calling ALAC’s toll-free number: (800) 3003 567
– Visiting ALAC office: G. Liverpool North, 1st Floor, Shabnam Magu, Male’
– Via email: office@transparencymaldives.org ahid.rasheed@transparencymaldives.org

ALAC, in addition to free legal consultation also conducts outreach programs to create public awareness about the detrimental effects of corruption.

ALAC would work with the government, independent institutions, NGO’s, private law firms and other relevant organizations and, would undertake advocacy to bring about broader systematic changes needed to tackle and curb corruption.

Prior to its launching, ALAC has worked in building relationship and establishing working partnership with several key stakeholders. This initial pre-launch work resulted in successful signing of ALAC’s first MoU with Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) of Maldives.

Human trafficking and corruption relating to expatriate labourers being one of the major issues in the country, ALAC provides its services to the vulnerable Bangladeshi workers in the Maldives. Through Transparency International’s FK exchange program, a staff member of Transparency International Bangladesh has been based in TM to assist with complaints from Bangladeshi workers.

To further extend ALAC services and reach a larger community, ALAC also conduct Mobile ALAC Camps in rural outer atolls. These Camps provide free-legal advice to the vulnerable island communities, which have very limited access to legal services. Plans have been made to conduct at least 4 Mobile Camps a year.


Wohab an Exchange Fellow from Transparency International Bangladesh working with TMs legal advice center answers questions from migrant workers

Wohab, an Exchange Fellow from Transparency International Bangladesh working with TM’s legal advice center answers questions from migrant workers

Transparency Maldives provided free legal information to 350+ expatriates as part of the ALAC project set up to help victims and witnesses of corruption, at an event held to celebrate the International Migrant Day. The event was held on 28 December 2012 at Sultan Park.

Migrant workers are among the most vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Issues raised and advice sought by themigrant workers include:

  • Delayed and or non-payment of wages;
  • Withholding of passports; and
  • Poor living conditions.

The ALAC provides Bangla translation services to persons who have difficulty in communicating in English and Divehi, with the assistance of an Exchange Fellow from Transparency International Bangladesh.

Since the project inception, the ALAC made contact with and provided free training to over 3,000+ people. ALAC lawyers can be reached for free legal advice at the toll free number (800) 3003 567. The free legal advice center is open from 9am to 5pm every week except on public holidays.


Staff of the Advocacy and Legal Advice Center (ALAC) conducted Mobile Camps in all in-habited islands of Vaavu Atoll and Addu Atoll for the purpose of providing free legal advice to victims and witnesses of corruption during October and December 2012 respectively.

 

ALAC, the only free legal advice center in Maldives, is established at Transparency Maldives. ALAC lawyers can be reached at the toll free number (800) 3003 567.

 

During the trips to the atolls, ALAC staff actively sought out persons who may be in need of legal advice. An Exchange Fellow from Transparency International Bangladesh accompanied the ALAC staff to provide legal advice and information to Bangladeshi workers in the atolls.

 

ALAC’s are set up by chapters of Transparency International in over 40 countries.


In the past 12 months Transparency Maldives has contacted 560 migrant workers, many of those with ongoing cases. Their main complaints include withholding of passports and documents preventing workers from travelling, poor living conditions and delay or non-payment of wages.

Living quarters for expatriate workers in Male’ -the most densely populated capital in the world with an estimated 140,000 people living in 2 square kilometers – are very cramped. It is the norm for 50 plus migrant workers to sleep in 8 hour shifts, in 20×10 ft spaces.