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Aechath Adam | Between Windows and Walls

Gan, Laamu Atoll, Maldives – The system lingers in a state of flux, while some Bangladeshi men suffer at the hands of corruption and deceit, the lucky few somehow manage to thrive amidst chaos, earning more than they could have under a legal work permit.

Between windows and walls.
An inquiry into the state of migrant workers in the Maldives.

Little islands with luxury price tags; the Maldives is world renowned for its jewel like atolls, powder fine pearly sands and endless blue sky. The booming service and construction industries have created a metropolis for South Asian migrant workers seeking a way out of poverty in their homelands. But inbetween the cracks of the ever emerging Lego-like island city of Malé, lies a festering slum that is slowly but surely ascending to where the sun shines in paradise.

Thousands of Bangladeshi workers in the Maldives risk serious exploitation everyday often forced labor and human rights violations. An old story now, high debts from extortionate recruitment fees and confiscation of passports and contracts often leave these men at the mercy of corrupt agents. Most do not speak enough English or Dhivehi to fully grasp the gravity of their situation. Often in states in hyper-awareness they experience calamity in its purest form, as duration. They pray for Shundor Jeebon (the beautiful life) risking all that they have.

The Maldives has now been on the US State Department’s Tier Two Watch List for Human Trafficking for three consecutive years.

Male’ Maldives – An ever-growing slum exists beneath the shinny high-rise buildings, slowly but surely eating its way up to where the sun shines in paradise.

Male’ Maldives – A quick cup of tea and then off to Majeedhee Magu, the main road on the capital island Malé, where workers line up in the hopes of day jos or random short term work every morning.

Male’ Maldives – Deep in the heart of the city, through small alleys and hidden doors is a world unknown to most Maldivians.

Male’ Maldives – For MVR 1200 (€ 61,22) a month, workers get their meals delivered to their accommodation twice a day in plastic bags. One bowl per bag. Over 200 meals are packed and delivered from this house everyday.

Gan, Laamu Atoll, Maldives -Accommodation for legal workers in the fields. The lucky ones stay in concrete box like buildings with no windows or electricity. Two holes in the wall allow air to flow in at night. Bed nets are vital protection from swarms of mosquitoes and other bugs.

Male’ Maldives – Access to healthcare and legal aid is rare or non-existent within the Bangladeshi community. It is incredibly misfortunate to have an accident at work or fall ill.

Gan, Laamu Atoll, Maldives – A laborer stands in a tented chilli field deep in the belly of the land. It is common for Bangladeshi men who have no means to an end in Male’ to escape into the inner islands undetected by the legal system.

Gan, Laamu Atoll, Maldives – It is estimated that there are currently over 100,000 Bangladeshi workers living in the Maldives. More than half have been trafficked into the country through a network of agencies operating in Malé and Dhaka. While the lucky ones manage to get odd jobs to support themselves, most are left in a state of shock and despair. They do not have their passport or any paperwork to go home but they cannot afford the ticket anyway.

Male’ Maldives – Sunrise at the seawall, everyday is a battle within.

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