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Police release expats arrested after Bodufinolhu protest

Mariyam Malsa
03 August 2020, MVT 20:42
Expatriate workers at Bodufinolhu, Baa Atoll. PHOTO: MIHAARU FILES
Mariyam Malsa
03 August 2020, MVT 20:42

Maldives Police Service, on Sunday, revealed that the expatriate workers arrested following the protest staged on Bodufinolhu, Baa Atoll, were released and placed under the care of Maldives Immigration.

On July 2, 203 expatriate workers in Bodufinolhu protested over six months of unpaid wages and barred 13 local staff from leaving the island. The police arrested 19 individuals amid the operation to de-escalate the hostage situation.

Initially remanded for 15 days by the Eydhafushi Magistrate Court, the expatriates' detention period was extended again for a 15-day period by the Criminal Court on July 18.

Despite their release, a police media official stated that the investigation launched against the individuals was still ongoing.

In 2019, Seal Maldives had contracted the construction work of Bodufinolhu, which is being developed as a luxury resort, to RIX Pvt Ltd, a company owned by the parliamentary representative for Shaviyani Atoll's Milandhoo constituency, Ali Riza. Following the hostage situation, both companies issued conflicting statements regarding their respective contractual roles concerning the expatriate workers.

RIX has maintained its initial assertions that Seal Maldives was legally required to pay salaries as per agreements between the two companies, and that RIX was only assigned a management role concerning the workers. The contractor claimed that delays in crediting salaries were caused by Seal Maldives' failure to make payments.

The developer countered with a statement noting that it made payments in addition to those mandated by agreements and accused RIX of neglect, stating that there was no reason preventing the contractor from paying its workers. Seal Maldives also asserted that RIX was mandated to cover insurance, healthcare and Visa application costs in addition to monthly salaries.

The state assumed custody of the migrants after RIX Pvt Ltd refused to claim responsibility for the expatriate workers over alleged misidentification of the company, dodging Thulhaadhoo Magistrate Court‘s order for RIX to extradite the expatriates from Bodufinolhu as per a request from Seal Maldives.

According to Minister of Economic Development Fayyaz Ismail, the migrant workers, reportedly extradited from the island on August 1, were transferred to a facility in reclaimed suburb Hulhumale' and will remain there until the salary dispute is resolved.

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