Seychelles monitoring abuses against foreign workers, some living in ‘deplorable’ conditions
One of the visits conducted by the task force with ARID officers. (Seychelles Nation)
(Seychelles News Agency) - The Ministry of Employment, Immigration & Civil Status has put together a task force to deal with cases of human rights violations against foreign workers in Seychelles.
The Association for Rights, Information and Democracy (ARID) started bringing forward cases, thus making the task force necessary. The cases included foreign workers living in difficult conditions or having their wages delayed.
“During a most recent visit to another zone, we discovered that there were workers of FLB Builders who were living in deplorable conditions with no designated cooking area with water supply, lack of proper sanitation, hazardous environment, poor toilet facilities,” said Jules Hoareau, the chairperson of the association.
Hoareau told SNA that they have written to the concerned authorities asking them to take immediate actions.
The aim of the task force, set up by the Employment Department, is to inspect the living quarters of large groups of foreign workers in the country to ensure that requirements are being met. Any person who has seen or knows of violation cases can contact a newly set up hotline number, (248) 430 39 30.
“There are several elements that we keep in mind when we do these inspections - labour issues, safety and security both on site and off site, authorised planning, and proper sanitation,” said Jules Baker, the Principal Secretary of the Employment Department.
Set up in April, the task force comprises of representatives from the Ministry of Health, Fire and Rescue Services Agency, Planning Authority, Licensing Authority, Department of Risk and Disaster Management and the Ministry of Environment among others.
The task force is making two weekly random inspections on sites where foreign workers in the construction and farming sector reside.
At the moment, the department has conducted around 15 visits among which six businesses have been found to be in violation of the law for mistreating their workers.
Employers who are found to be in violation of the Employment Act and of contracts with their workers will face severe actions. No Gainful Occupation Permit (GOP) will be issued to such employers until they comply.
“We have done the necessary procedures with the licensing authority to suspend the license of FLB Builders and the site is closed, and necessary actions are being undertaken,” said Baker.
The principal secretary said that his department has 10,000 businesses and 17,000 foreign workers to attend to “and it is not easy for a small governmental department to deal with all of this.”
“It is important that other organisations such as ARID discover and bring such cases to our attention,” said Baker.
To ensure that migrant workers know their rights and responsibilities once they get to Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, the department is producing leaflets with information on labour laws and what the workers are entitled. These leaflets, which will be translated into different languages, will be given to foreign workers upon arrival in the country.
The department is working on new regulation and policies that will help avoid such problems in the future. Officers will be deployed to inspect accommodations once they are alerted that a large group of workers is entering the country. Procedures for recruitment will also be relooked at.