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Cablegate: The Maldives: Information On Forced Labor and Exploitative

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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1275
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC IMMEDIATE
INFO RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC
RUEHGV/USMISSION GENEVA 0127
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 3836
RUEHKA/AMEMBASSY DHAKA 2398
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 9420
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UNCLAS COLOMBO 000098

SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/INSB AND DRL/ILCSR FOR SARAH MORGAN
STATE FOR G/TIP FOR LUIS CDEBACA
DOL/ILAB FOR LEYLA STROTKAMP, RACHEL RIGBY, TINA MCCARTER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EIND ELAB ETRD PHUM SOCI CE
SUBJECT: THE MALDIVES: INFORMATION ON FORCED LABOR AND EXPLOITATIVE
CHILD LABOR IN THE PRODUCTION OF GOODS FOR MANDATORY CONGRESSIONAL
REPORTING REQUIREMENTS

REFTEL: STATE 131995

1. Reftel only requests responses to tasking 1/TVPRA, on the use of
forced or exploitive child labor in the production of goods.
However, the Maldives was reinstated to the General System of
Preference program in December 2009, so post also will provide
information applicable to tasking 2.

2. The economy of the Maldives is dominated by three sectors:
tourism, fishing, and the government. The Maldives is comprised of
over 1,190 islands, of which 198 are inhabited and 95 are exclusive
resort islands. The population is approximately 310,000, of whom
103,000 live on the capital island of Male'. There are an
additional 80,000 expatriate workers. The labor force is
approximately 100,000 people, and over 30,000 of them are employed
by the government.

Prevalence of Child or Exploitive Labor in the Maldives

3. The Government of the Maldives or the tourism industry does not
employ child or forced labor, but there could be some limited cases
in the fishing industry or domestic help. Econoff reviewed the
report of the Maldives Human Rights Commission and discussed the
issue with officials of the Ministry of Human Resources, Youth and
Sports (which covers labor issues), the International Labor
Organization (ILO), and private sector representatives. All agree
that child or forced labor does not exist in the government or the
tourist resorts. In its Rapid Assessment of the Employment
Situation in the Maldives, the Human Rights Commission of the
Maldives concluded that 'forced labor in the form of coercive
recruitment has not been evident in the Maldives ... During this
[2008] assessment, no evidence was found of men, women and children
being tied to work through debt or of trafficking in women and/or
children or of their being sold into forced prostitution or other
work places as may be found in some other South Asian countries.
However, some cases of girls addicted to drugs being forced into
prostitution have been reported.' Post will provide more detail on
trafficking issues in its upcoming Trafficking in Persons Report.

4. According to our interviews and the Maldives Human Rights
Commission report, one common practice is for children living on
islands with inadequate or no schools to move to another island
where they attend school and perform domestic chores for the host
family. According to the Maldives Human Rights Commission 'Some
girls and boys who migrate to Male' from outer islands for
educational purposes are compelled to work as domestic workers.'
Siraj Hussain, a former Ministry official who now works with the
ILO, portrayed the practice as benign. Hussain himself had provided
domestic help to his host family when he was a child studying in
Male', but he still attended school. Indeed, without this labor
arrangement, Hussain would not have received the education that has
allowed him to work in professional positions.

5. There are anecdotal reports of child labor in the fishing
industry, either working with their parents to salt and process the
dried fish, or with host families so that they can go to school.
There has not been a survey of child labor in the Maldives, so Post
cannot ascertain the prevalence of child labor in the fishing
industry. There could also be child labor in the handicrafts
industry, but we need to investigate further.

6. As noted, the Maldives has a large expatriate work force. The
expatriate work force, however, is composed of adults, and Post has
not heard of an issue with expatriate child labor.

New Protections against Forced and Child Labor

7. The Maldives has made great strides to protect labor rights. The
Maldives has ratified a new constitution which prohibits forced
labor, enacted an employment law that contains specific protections
against child labor, been reinstated in the International Labor
Organization, and established a Labor Tribunal. The Maldives still
needs to implement certain regulations, but there have been dramatic
improvements in legal protection against forced, exploitive, and/or
child labor.

8. The new Maldives Constitution entered into force in August 2008,
and article 25 prohibits forced labor: 'Article 25: No Slavery or
Forced Labor (a) No one shall be held in slavery or servitude, or be
required to perform forced labor.'

9. The 2009 Maldives Employment Act also prohibits forced labor and
child labor. In the employment act, article three states that no
person shall be compelled or forced into employment. The Labor
Tribunal enforces this prohibition. Article six prohibits the
employment of a minor under the age of sixteen except for the
purpose of training in relation to the minor's education. Moreover,
article seven prohibits the employment of any person under eighteen
in any work or employment that will have a detrimental effect on a
child's health, education, safety or morals due to the work or job
conditions. Article eight requires parental consent for employing
minors. Article nine prohibits the employment of a minor during
school hours and after 11:00 p.m. Violations of the employment act
are punishable by fines from 1,000 to 5,000 Rf (approximately $78 to
$390 USD).

10. The Maldives is still developing its enforcement regime for
these labor laws. Hussain reports that the Maldives has set up a
seven person Labor Tribunal, which is professionally staffed with
lawyers and officials with a human resources experience. The ILO
plans to provide training to the Labor Tribunal. The Labor Tribunal
is currently processing 28 different claims, and its website is
www.employmenttribunal.gov.mv. The Maldives also has three labor
inspectors, but they cover all employment and workplace issues, and
they reportedly need training. At present, Hussain did not believe
that the inspectors were working any child labor cases.

11. The International Labor Organization has developed a work plan
with the Government of the Maldives to provide technical assistance,
assess the labor market and ratify international labor standards,
such as the eight core ILO conventions. The work plan provides a
forum to advance work on potential child labor issues.

12. Comment: The Maldives has come a long way over the last two
years. Until 1994 they did not have any labor laws; the 2009
employment act provides many additional legal guarantees, and raises
the age for employment from fourteen to sixteen years old. The
Maldives still needs to improve its labor enforcement mechanisms,
but with the assistance of the ILO, they are on the right path to
get there. End Comment.

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