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32,000 undocumented expat workers registered: Economic Minister

Ahmed Aiham
23 February 2020, MVT 14:01
Expatriates wait for a chance at registration at the National Football Stadium, Galolhu Dhandu, capital city Male'. PHOTO: NISHAN ALI / MIHAARU
Ahmed Aiham
23 February 2020, MVT 14:01

Minister of Economic Development Fayyaz Ismail on last Thursday, revealed that 32,000 immigrants were registered in the government-led effort to tackle the issue of undocumented expatriates.

In an interview with local media Mihaaru, Minister Fayyaz slammed public criticism over the operation, noting that a majority of Maldivians want to instantly deport all undocumented expatriate workers residing in the country. He added that the rampant issue was far larger to be tackled within the next five years.

Maldives Immigration revealed that 63,000 of the 144,607 expatriates living in Maldives under a work visa do not possess the proper documentation. There have also been several reports of immigrants securing employment under tourist visas.

The government in 2019, opened the opportunity for undocumented migrants to re-register themselves within a six month period.

In addition to capital city Male', the government conducted re-registration camps in Kulhudhuffushi City, Fuvahmulah City and Laamu Atoll. Minister stated that more islands will be reached within the following week.

The minister also addressed certain challenges in verification of individuals, including a lack of valid documentation causing further delays to the process.

With a capacity of 40, a repatriation centre to detain undocumented expatriates until deportation was established in reclaimed suburb Hulhumale. Minister Fayyaz noted that the monthly expenditures for each repatriated expatriate cost the state MVR 16,000.

The current administration has taken several steps to curb undocumented migration, including imposing a one-year ban on contracting Bangladeshi labourers in effect from September 18, 2019 onwards.

Furthermore, the economic minister stated that they were working with the immigration department to identify companies and business involved in human trafficking.