Migrant worker recruitment agencies submit petition over lost rights, vilification

Members of Employment Agencies handing over the petition | Photo: Mihaaru

Malé, Maldives – Recruitment agencies that bring migrant workers into the Maldives have submitted a petition to parliament over vilification and lost rights.

The petition highlights issues with the system, laws, exploitation by companies, government Ministries and undue vilification by authorities.

The petition, submitted by Union for Employment Agency of the Maldives (UEAM) and Maldives Association for Employment Agency (MAIA) has signatures of over 60 recruitment agencies and is sponsored by Member of Parliament for Maafannu central constituency, Ibrahim Rasheed (Bondey).

The petition states that the Economic Ministry approves employment agencies after checking if the said agency has not violated any employment laws in the past 5 years. In addition, the Ministry of Economic Development requires a deposit of MVR 50,000 to issue the appropriate license for these agencies.

However, this license is only valid for 2 years, and requires submission of a clean record and additional payment of MVR 2,500. Agencies are also required to pay an annual fee of MVR 2,000 plus GST according to the petition.

The Agencies stated that whenever the topic of illegal expatriates and runaway immigrants are brought up, the public and the Parliament say that recruitment agencies are responsible.

However, the petition claimed that even to this day, there is no record of an employment agency facing charges over such an issue.

The petition pointed out that, the issue of illegal immigrants is worsening as the role of employment agencies has declined, and any individual can now bring in expatriates. They added that if expatriates come into the Maldives through a registered agency, individuals responsible for them and if any neglect occurs, that the point of neglect would be clear.

The law states that a fee, whether direct or indirect should not be charged from the expat worker, noted that petition, adding that government institutes and numerous private companies fail to pay employment agencies.

The petition disclosed that instead of going through registered agencies, companies exploit loopholes in the law to employ expatriates, and that these companies do this to improve their cash flow and working capital.

The petition highlighted how the companies exploit workers; deposits that the company should pay the government is often taken from the employee, numerous cases of taking a commission from the employee, bringing in excessive number of workers for one quota and sending them back or releasing them to the streets, and other human trafficking acts.

The agencies explained that such issues such continue to arise due to the fact that the role of employment agencies being reduced, and since there is no law mandating workers to go through these agencies.

The petition also stated that while Indian law prevents Indian Agencies from doing proceeds in foreign employment, the Maldivian Ministry of Education has chosen to set aside local employment agencies to work with two Indian Agencies. They went on to question their rights as registered agencies in the Maldives.

The Health Ministry has also stopped going through employment agencies, and now directly recruit employees, which the petition suspects is being done to acquire undue benefits for some specific individuals. The petition ended with a request to implement various laws to regularize employment agencies.