The Ministry of Economic Development, on Thursday, announced that regularisation employment approval (REA) would only be granted to expatriates after the transfer of their deposit funds.
Effective from September 23 onwards, regularised expatriates that previously received REAs are also required to place the deposit with the ministry to extend employment approval.
Deputy Minister for Economic Development Mariyam Nazima revealed that employers will be required to place a deposit fund with the ministry, for each individual worker as part of the government's regularisation effort.
Till date, more than 40,000 undocumented workers have registered under the government's regularisation programme.
According to official figures, the Maldivian government has facilitated the repatriation of over 8,000 migrant workers, including undocumented individuals. The Economic Ministry projected that approximately 20,000 workers will be sent back to their home countries by the end of 2020.
Maldives Immigration previously revealed that 63,000 immigrants out of the country's expatriate population of 144,607, are undocumented. Following the government's repatriation efforts, the aforementioned numbers are likely to be lower.
The implementation of new regulation concerning employment for regularised individuals comes in the wake of several recent expat-led demonstrations that took 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. Furthermore, the aforementioned low quality of life has exacerbated the disproportionate effect of Maldives' ongoing COVID-19 outbreak on the vast migrant population.
In June 2020, the United States 'Trafficking in Persons Report' placed Maldives in its 'Tier 2 Watch List' for failing to prevent forced labour, fraudulent recruitment, confiscation of identity and travel documents, debt-based coercion and human trafficking. Maldives has remained on Tier 2 for the past two years.
On July 30, the government announced the implementation of a 'National Anti-Human Trafficking Action Plan 2020–2022', which will be carried out in accordance with the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (UNTOC).