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Court remands expats arrested from Bodufinolhu for 15 days

Fathmath Shaahunaz
04 July 2020, MVT 17:26
During the police operation on B.Bodufinolhu to deescalate the situation after 200 expatriate workers held 13 Maldivian staff hostage on the island, protesting over six months of unpaid salaries. PHOTO/POLICE
Fathmath Shaahunaz
04 July 2020, MVT 17:26

Maldives Police Service revealed that the 19 expatriate workers arrested from Bodufinolhu, Baa Atoll, over the hostage situation on Friday were remanded for a period of 15 days.

According to the police, Eydhafushi Magistrate Court on Saturday ordered the expatriates to be remanded in a facility determined by the Ministry of Home Affairs while the police continued the investigation.

The 19 expatriates in question were taken into custody under accusations of being involved in the unrest that erupted on Bodufinolhu from Thursday evening.

Over 200 expatriate workers had launched protests and held hostage 13 Maldivian staff on the island, over their employer's failure to pay six months of salary.

Police mobilised teams to rescue the local staff and deescalate the situation on Thursday night, successfully completing the operation by Friday morning.

According to the police, a number of officers were injured during the initial attempts to make landfall on Thursday evening, when the expatriate workers prevented them from reaching the island by throwing stones and metal rods from the harbour.

The police then mobilised a Public Order Response Team, which successfully reached the island in the early hours of Friday, and completed the operation without any further clashes. Police noted that following negotiations, the expatriate workers agreed to cooperate peacefully.

The police also disclosed that several vehicles and equipment used for resort development were damaged and some buildings vandalised during the protest.

Meanwhile, the workers' employer RIX Maldives Pvt Ltd, and Seal Maldives which had contracted the former for the resort construction, have released conflicting statements regarding the unpaid wages of the expatriate staff.

RIX Maldives claimed that it had been unable to pay salaries after Seal Maldives' failure to make payments for four months starting from January 2020.

According to RIX, agreements signed in November and December 2019 between the two companies mandated Seal to cover salaries and living costs depending on the number of contracted workers.

However, RIX stated that Seal Maldives had only credited a fraction of the total MVR 12 million owed upon completion of the project, and accused Seal of human trafficking and forcing the foreign labourers to continue working without pay.

The allegations were denied by Seal Maldives, which asserted that it had paid a total of MVR 21,773,338 to RIX Maldives, although the initial agreement stipulated a payment of MVR 12,332,765 upon completion of the contracted project. The surplus was attributed to the cost of funding additional work.

Seal Maldives stated that there was no reason preventing RIX from paying its workers, and accused the company of neglect.

This issue comes amidst concerns which have long been raised by rights groups and the public over the exploitation of expatriate workers in Maldives, including human trafficking, withholding of wages, poor living conditions, and other human rights violations.

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