Left-wing political movement 'Navaanavai', on Wednesday, condemned the state's response to recent protests held by migrant workers in relation to unpaid wages, inhumane living and work conditions, and the "complete lack of access to justice".
In a press statement, Navaanavai accused the government of continuing to further "victimise migrant workers" by the use of excessive police force, initiating legal action against them and fuelling xenophobic sentiments instead of holding employers accountable.
"We strongly condemn statements made by government ministries, the police, and the President’s Office following migrant workers protests, dismissing the very real grievances of migrant workers, stemming from decades of systemic discrimination and mistreatment", said the group.
Navaanavai further scrutinized Minister of Economic Development Fayyaz Ismail for underplaying the protests as a "political ploy by unnamed actors".
Further, they alleged that the Minister of Defence and Chair of the Anti-Trafficking Committee, Mariya Ahmed Didi, chose to ignore the realities of expatriates when the minister noted that formal channels were available for migrants to access justice without the need to protest.
"These comments serve to deflect attention from the serious and widespread exploitation of migrant workers by companies employing them in the Maldives, including human trafficking, withholding wages for extended periods of time, and confiscating passports and documentation in order to have workers deported without paying their wages".
Moreover, the movement highlighted "victim-blaming narratives" portrayed by government officials, parliamentarians and the two largest political parties, in addition to law enforcement bodies as well as by the mainstream media.
Navaanavai also stated that coordinated effort to paint migrant workers as a threat to national security is completely "baseless and unconscionable and will further fuel discrimination and hate crimes against these workers".
"Threatening harsh legal action against migrant workers will not deter workers living in desperate conditions from protesting and demanding their rights".
"The only acceptable response is to drop all charges, stop detention, arrest and forced deportation of protesting migrant workers", said Navaanavai, further calling to guarantee that all outstanding wages are paid and to ensure expats' safety and security by relevant authorities.
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.