Minister of Economic Development Fayyaz Ismail, on Monday, stated that an overall figure of approximately 20,000 undocumented workers would be sent back to their home countries in 2020.
Speaking at the parliamentary committee on National Security Services, the minister revealed that Maldivian authorities had received cooperation from the Bangladeshi government during the repatriation of 3,800 workers this year. He highlighted that repatriation efforts could not be conducted forcefully if such bilateral cooperation is to be maintained.
"Right now, I have no plans to send them back [to their home countries] against their will", stated Fayyaz, clarifying that several foreign labourers that wished to depart from Maldives lacked the means and opportunity to do so.
"I want history to record that Maldives acted justly concerning this matter".
The economic minister described the situation concerning the undocumented migrants as the "most vile act in Maldivian history" which he asserted trumped even the MMPRC scandal, the largest corruption case recorded in the country.
He expressed that he felt "ashamed as a Maldivian", concerning the treatment of expatriate workers in the country.
In addition to causing the exploitation of several people, Minister Fayyaz stated that the issue had economic, social and national security implications for Maldives.
According to Fayyaz, laws concerning foreign workers would be "overhauled" during the upcoming week.
He clarified that government efforts would be focused on bringing undocumented migrants within the fold of the law instead of deportation.
Furthermore, the minister expressed his intention of extending the one-year ban on bringing Bangladeshi labourers to Maldives, imposed on September 18, 2019.
Despite acknowledging the enormity and complicated nature of the state's efforts to reach a solution, he assured that all efforts to exert undue influence by those with vested interests would be blocked.
The economic minister requested the parliament to extend full cooperation in tackling the issue.
Recently, expat-led demonstrations have taken place amidst renewed concerns from rights groups as well as the general public, over the continued exploitation of expatriate workers in Maldives.
Violations reported include human trafficking, withholding of wages, poor living conditions, and other human rights violations. Further, the aforementioned low quality of life has cemented the disproportionate effect had by Maldives' ongoing COVID-19 outbreak on its vast migrant population.