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Navaanavai calls to drop charges against detained expats over Bodufinolhu situation

Ahmed Aiham
05 July 2020, MVT 14:40
Public Interest Law Centre (PILC) has pledged to provide pro-bono legal aid to migrant workers employed for the development of Bodufinolhu, Baa Atoll. PHOTO: PILC
Ahmed Aiham
05 July 2020, MVT 14:40

Left-wing political movement 'Navaanavai', on Saturday, demanded the Prosecutor General's Office to drop the charges against the 19 expatriate workers arrested from Bodufinolhu, Baa Atoll following a hostage situation and protests over unpaid salaries.

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

Navaanavai tweeted their press statement on Saturday. PHOTO: TWITTER

In a press statement, Navaanavai called on authorities to halt forced deportation of migrants and facilitate their return to employment under safe and dignified conditions.

They added that the "government’s policy of detaining and deportation of migrants who protest against wage theft and exploitation is an outrageous violation of their basic human rights".

"Justice should always be a process of healing, rather than a drive to convict and punish. Migrant workers, especially Bangladeshi labourers have been suffering immensely in this country even before the COVID-19 pandemic", read the statement.

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

Public Interest Law Centre announced its decision to ensure the rights of migrant workers.

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's Public Order Response Team later successfully reached the island in the early hours of Friday, and completed the operation without further clashes. Police noted that following negotiations, the expatriate workers agreed to cooperate peacefully.

A member of the public scrutinizing Minister of Economic Development Fayyaz Ismail's statement that no substantial legal action can be taken against the company which failed to pay its workers.

Meanwhile, the workers' employer RIX Maldives and Seal Maldives, which had contracted the former for the resort construction, have released conflicting statements regarding the unpaid wages of the expatriate staff, placing the blame of the expatriates' unpaid salaries on each other. RIX is owned by the parliamentary representative for Shaviyani Atoll's Milandhoo constituency, Ali Riza.

Foreign RIX employees had also staged a silent protest on May 16, demanding full payment and clearance to leave Maldives for their respective home countries.

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.

Navaanavai previously established a hotline for workers facing redundancy, pay cuts and unfair treatment amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The movement which advocates for social justice, urged workers to call +960 9477309 and register any such complaints.

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