Exit permits required for foreign workers from today

Foreign workers in the Maldives will be required to obtain permission from their employer before leaving the country from today (October 19).

The exit permit requirement – announced via local media on Thursday (October 16) – is now being implemented, with expatriate workers required to present a form, signed by their employer, at airport immigration.

“The procedure is simple,” explained the immigration department’s Information Officer Hassan Khaleel.

“The employer needs to fill out the form and hand it over to the employee. The employee is required to submit it to the immigration counter at the time of departure.”

The abuse of exit permit systems elsewhere has led to condemnation from international human rights groups, with local NGO Transparency Maldives today expressing concern over the scheme’s use in the Maldives.

While exact figures are unavailable, the number of expatriate workers in the country has been estimated to be as high as 200,000 – equivalent to two thirds of the local population.

Although the majority of these workers are Bangladeshi, Bangladeshi High Commissioner Rear Admiral A.S.M.A Awal has told Minivan News he has not yet been informed of the new exit permit procedures.

During the first week of the permit’s use, allowances will be made due to the short notice given regarding exit permit procedure, explained Khaleel.

“It will not be very strict for the first week. Airport staff will ask for the form and may call employers to check for a period of time.”

He explained that the introduction of the permit system had come after requests from employers concerned at the number of expatriate workers leaving the country without permission.

The illegal practice of withholding the passports of migrant workers – described as “rampant” in the Maldives by the US State Department – may also be lessened as a result of the new permit scheme, added Khaleel.

Potential for abuse

Advocacy and communications manager at TM, Aiman Rasheed, has expressed concern that the exit permits will exacerbate the well-documented abuses within the immigration system.

“Requiring an exit permit to depart from Maldives may have the same effect as withholding travel documents, that is, the employer has control of the mobility of the worker,” explained Rasheed.

“While this is an infringement on the freedom of movement for workers, it also presents opportunities for perpetuation of bondage, trafficking, etc, by limiting movement of the worker.”

Long viewed as a country with a poor record on combatting human trafficking, the Maldives was this year removed from the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report watchlist.

A government report in 2011 has revealed the scale of the problem, with human trafficking said to be the Maldives’ second most lucrative industry after tourism – worth an estimated US$123 million a year. In 2013, Bangladeshi authorities temporarily halted migration of its nationals, blaming the failure of local authorities to address the problem.

After four consecutive years on the TIP watchlist, the Maldives avoided potential sanctions this year after the introduction of the Anti-trafficking Act in December 2013.

“Serious problems in anti-trafficking law enforcement and victim protection remained,” said the TIP report, which noted that an unknown number expatriate workers in the country experienced forced labour.

Exit permit systems are also operated in other nations with large numbers of expatriate workers – such the UAE and Qatar, although Qatar announced earlier this year that it was to abolish the practice after pressure from human rights groups.

Human Rights Watch noted last year that the Qatari system “unfairly shackles foreign workers to their Qatari employers, opening them up to unfair treatment and exploitation.”

Khaleel told Minivan News today that the immigration department was aware of the potential for abuse inherent within the system.

“If there are any disputes employers should approach the Labour Relations Authority. They are responsible for disputes and breaches of contract,” he explained.

Any workers requiring further information on the exit permit system can contact airport immigration on 332 0452 or 794 0452.

The exit permit form can be downloaded here.


11 thoughts on “Exit permits required for foreign workers from today”

  1. What if employers refuse to sign an exit permit? What can foreign workers do then? Are they supposed to just suck it up and get back to work?

  2. Perhaps Maldivian authorities should look into what causes expat workers to flee employment - putting legislation in place to better protect employees - who this country seems pretty dependent on - & to better police employers might be a more proactive step. All this legislation does is act as a disincentive for expats to work here & this economy wouldn't function without it's large expat population.

  3. @concerned expat

    Maldivian authorities are not concerned with human rights or worker rights. The government ministries responsible for employing foreign teachers and doctors routinely commit the same forced labor/human trafficking violations occurring in the private sector. They believe it is within their rights to delay or deny salary payment, confiscate passports, deny exits to home countries, etc. So asking them to have a thoughtful and logical response to this issue is unrealistic. And they don't care if they lose expats because there's always more waiting to come here and work in "paradise".

  4. Quote from the US State Department link above.

    "Passport confiscation was a rampant practice by private employers and government ministries, who withheld the passports of foreign employees and victim witnesses in trafficking prosecutions; the government did not prosecute any employers or officials for this offense."

  5. This just ruined the country's future economic gains. No expat will ever want to come here and feel trapped. There are, as anywhere in the world, bad employers and what makes you think they aren't super happy to hear this?? No justice, no growth. This island is done.

  6. This is good and with Islamic principle, in Sharia there must be no Gharar of uncertainty in a contract. If foreign worker come they sign a contract for time of work and cannot break this as it against the principle of Sharia!

    If we allow Bangladesh Muslim to break a contract it is not help of them... it allows a shirk. If they do not liked a contract they should not signed it, not to sign it and run away.

  7. No offense to the many great Maldivian people who live here, but your government is a joke.

    Who could ever think this is a good decision?

  8. This is another way to exploit foreign workers, along with confiscation of passports and willy nilly amendments to employment contracts.
    I suggest the Indian government also impose an exit permit system for Maldivian visitors. A better option would be to stop them coming into the country in the first place.

  9. Maldives will get screwed up so soon.

    better to leave this place and leave chances to all others who are willing to come here and work. We can change ourselves. But not the world or Maldives.

  10. i wonder who protects employers rights. how many of you have known that how many professional employees have flown out of country with even the furnitures in the aprtment provided employers. how many of you have known that how many professionals working in financial sector have flown out of country with bunch of thousands of dollars on Thursady, how many of you have known that how many professional doctors have flown out of country after taking advance payments for surgeries. And non of these cases employers came to know that the employees under his sponsership, as a result employers have been penalized many many times. the very purpose of this exit permit is not giving the authority to employer, but to have an evidence that the employer is aware of his employees departure. Maldives Exit permit is different than that of Qatar Exit Permit system. because, employees can be exempted by a one time consent letter from employers that he allows his employees to fly without such paper.


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