The government today announced a massive operation to detain and deport undocumented workers.
“Within three to four months the whole Malé will be cleaned,” said the Minister of Defence and National Security Mohamed Nazim – also in charge of the Immigration Department.
“They can’t live in Malé. When I say this, it will happen – I am not just saying it.”
Nazim told media the government is planning a “very strong operation” to reduce the number of undocumented migrant workers in Maldives “for the safety and security of everyone and for the economy”.
He said the operation would be carried out jointly by Maldives National Defence Force, the Maldives Police Service, the Department of Immigration and Emigration, and other relevant institutions.
Those detained in the operation are to be be deported using the money deposited by their employers when they were recruited.
A special facility has now been assigned to keep those who will be detained in the operation. Local councils will implement the operation in the atolls.
Nazim said the operation will begin before Ramazan and will target all undocumented workers – from those at the local market, to those wiping motorcycles.
Those deported will have to wait 5 to 10 years before being allowed to enter Maldives again, as opposed to those recently deported through a special voluntary repatriation program, who have the option to return in six months.
The defense minister noted that the capacity of institutions will be considered when carrying out the operation, as the government “does not want to detain so many people and take care of them”.
Actions such as imposing fines and restricting quotas will be taken against those who employ such workers, while a public awareness programme will be carried out simultaneously.
Limiting quotas for agencies
Nazim today announced that, within the year, the recruitment of foreign workers will be limited only to employment agencies.
In this regard, quotas – the maximum number of foreign nationals that can be employed by a single employer – will be issued only through employment agencies.
“Instead of individuals requesting for a quota, they should go through [recruitment] agencies to get the quota. They should apply to agencies and do it through those agencies,” he said, noting that individuals can still employ foreign workers, but can also only do so through agencies.
Nazim said the main reason for the change is the current difficulty in holding individuals accountable.
When the government allowed individuals to recruit foreign employees directly, in 2009, the Association for Employment Agencies expressed concern that the move would increase the number of undocumented workers.
In addition to the approximately 110,000 migrant workers employed in the Maldives, the number of undocumented workers have been estimated to be as high as 44,000. Many workers live at congested labor quarters owned by locals.
Authorities reported a good response to the recent voluntary repatriation scheme, with over 4,000 workers reported to have left the Maldives between December and the end of March.
Meanwhile, the Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA) today announced that, starting from Sunday, immigration related payments such as the visa fee and fines will be collected from the newly established ‘Huravee Collection Center’ on the third floor of the Huravee Building.
Commissioner General of MIRA, Yazeed Mohamed said that similar collection centers will be established around the country to make such payments easier. And said that the authority is working to establish a tax collection center in Hulhumale as well.