Maldives Police has reported an increase in the number of foreign nationals involved in the consumption and trade of illegal narcotics and alcohol.
During an ongoing large-scale operation to catch suspected drug users and distributors, police have arrested 60 foreign nationals hailing from Sri Lanka, India and Bangladesh.
Maldives Immigration Authorities have confirmed that work to deport those arrested is presently underway.
According to an Immigration spokesperson, of the expatriates arrested, only three were in possession of their passports. Hence, authorities are said to be procuring the necessary travel documentation for those remaining.
Nevertheless, the media official did not reveal information on the present location or status of the detainees.
In an interview given last Thursday to local media outlet Mihaaru by Police Superintendent Ahmed Shikaar, head of the Drug Enforcement Department (DED), he noted that the amount of foreigners being recruited by gangs and drug networks to partake in their illicit trade, particularly on the frontlines, is presently on the rise.
Superintendent Shikaar further projected that the trend would also see more foreign workers being inducted into the market and/or introduced to drug abuse for the first time.
“From communicating [with buyers] to other aspects of the drug and alcohol sale and trafficking, there is no small involvement of foreign nationals”, said Shikaar.
Noting that having foreigners working on the frontline offers added protection to the kingpins in charge of operations, the superintendent called the employing of expatriates to work in illegal activities a type of distraction.
Whilst DED Head Shaakir has made these assertions, it is also widely known that foreign nationals, especially expatriate labour workers, are often mistreated by their employees in Maldives, and maybe under duress or facing impossible situations, prior to their involvement in any criminal activity.
A 30-year-old foreign national who has been residing in the country for 7 years, was arrested during one of DED’s recent sting operations. Speaking to Mihaaru News the person claimed that their drug use was a recent development and that narcotics were first offered by a friend approximately 7 months earlier.
The year 2020 saw various protests led by expatriate workers in various islands including the capital city region, amid renewed concerns from rights groups as well as the general public, over the continued exploitation of expatriate workers in Maldives.
Violations reported include that of including human trafficking, withholding of wages, poor living conditions, and other human rights violations.