Indian High Commission slams Education Ministry over stranded expatriate teachers

The Indian High Commission in the Maldives has claimed skilled expatriate workers such as teachers employed in Maldives continue to be “penalised” due to government and private sector employers failing to fulfil their responsibilities.

First Secretary of the Indian High Commission in the Maldives S. C. Agarwal has said he continues this week to receive complaints from expatriate teachers unable to return home as a result of education authorities failing to reissue visa documentation.

The Department of Immigration and Emigration, whilst under former controller Ilyas Hussain Ibrahim, claimed last week that a solution had been reached to allow the state-employed Indian teachers affected by the visa renewal issue to return home.  A spokesperson for the immigration body added that the issues regarding the teachers’ out of date visas were the result of an “administrative problem” that had now been resolved.

However, First Secretary Agarwal maintains that teachers from India continue to be penalised under the present system for no fault of their own.

More than 30 teachers during the last week were said to have been unable to reclaim their passports from authorities after their visas were found to not have been renewed.

According to the Indian High Commission, the teachers, who are said to work at various public schools across the country, had effectively been left stranded in the Maldives after they were not permitted to leave the country.

In some cases, teachers are believed to have only discovered their visa documents had not been renewed by their employers after reaching Male’ to return home temporarily.

Agarwal said that although some teachers had returned to India on an emergency basis, others were still waiting on authorities to regularise their visas before being allowed to leave the country.

“Two teachers came to see me this morning after being in Male’ for more than a week now. They were told that they will not be able to leave at least before Tuesday until their visas are renewed. They have spent about Rf5,000 to stay here in Male,’” he said.

“I will not consider this issue resolved until all expatriates, whether from India or elsewhere, have their visas renewed or are sent home. Either expatriates are provided with the documentation they are promised by the government or their employers, or they should be sent home. There is no third option.”

Agarwal stressed that many of the teachers, whose passports are routinely taken from them by the Ministry, were being punished for mistakes made by the Ministry of Education, as well as immigration officials.

“My problem is we are getting teachers coming to us who have been stranded here in Male’ unable to return home. In many cases they are trying to return for emergency reasons and are unable to do so,” he said. “It is the responsibility of the employer – in this case the government – to ensure work visas are renewed on time.”

Agarwal said that he was concerned that a much larger number of teachers from India could have been affected by the visa renewal issue beyond the 30 cases brought to the attention of the high commission.

“I believe most of the workers affected will have gone to the Ministry of Education or the Immigration Department first to try and resolve the issue. The most desperate people will have come to us directly for assistance,” he said.

Complaints from the Indian High Commission about poor treatment of their nationals echo those made by the Bangladeshi High Commission on May 9.

Earlier this month, High Commissioner of Bangladesh, Rear Admiral Abu Saeed Mohamed Abdul Awal claimed workers were being brought to the Maldives to perform unskilled work, and often suffered from the practices of ”bad employers”.

“This is a real problem that is happening here, there have been many raids over the last year on unskilled [expatriate] workers who are suffering because of the companies employing them. They are not being given proper salaries and are paying the price for some of these employers,” he said at the time.

In line with concerns raised by counterparts within the High Commission of Bangladesh, Agarwal claimed that the Indian High Commission had also been speaking out about private sector employers who have left their foreign workers “in the lurch”.

“We have been made aware of cases where Indian workers are not being provided with the visas they are promised or, in some cases, even their salaries.  My concerns today for these teachers is that they are trained professionals working in the government sector,” he said. “These workers are  following the legal procedures here, but they are being penalised for it. There is even more concern for teachers based out in the islands, who may not know what is going on. The police will still be entitled to arrest them as illegal immigrants.”

Immigration solution

Former Controller of Immigration and Emigration Ilyas Hussain Ibrahim told Minivan News on Thursday – prior to his replacement by Dr Mohamed Ali – that the visa issues affecting the Indian teachers had been resolved.

“Now they can fly, but when they return they have to complete their visa document. I issued an order to our chief in that section to handle this as soon as possible,” he said at the time.

A spokesperson overseeing the visa issue for the Department of Immigration said that the difficulties in returning the Indian teachers home had been the result of an “administrative problem” that had since been solved.

“The problem had been that their visas had not been regularised by the Ministry of Education,” he said.  The spokesperson claimed that the problems in regularising the teachers’ visas had been solved by allowing the workers to renew their documentation once they returned to the Maldives for work.

Deputy Education Minister Anthu Ali  forwarded Minivan News to State Minister of Education Imad Solih. Solih was not responding to calls from Minivan News at  time of press.

Regional concerns

Last month Indian High Commissioner Dynaneshwar Mulay raised concerns over the treatment of expatriates from across the South Asia region – particularly by the country’s police and judiciary.

Mulay claimed that alongside concerns about the treatment of some Indian expatriates in relation to the law, there were significant issues relating to “basic human rights” that needed to be addressed concerning expatriates from countries including Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

Mulay’s comments were made following an alleged attack on a Indian resort worker, who was reported to have been struck with a hammer and mugged while staying in a hotel in Male’. The attack was allegedly committed by a former employee of the same resort.

Big business

Beyond concerns about the basic human rights of foreign employees in the country, labour trafficking is also represents a significant national economic issue.

An ongoing police investigation into labour trafficking in the Maldives last year uncovered an industry worth an estimated US$123 million, eclipsing fishing (US$46 million in 2007) as the second greatest contributor of foreign currency to the Maldivian economy after tourism.

The authorities’ findings echo concerns first raised by former Bangladeshi High Commissioner Dr Selina Muhsin, reported by Minivan News in August 2010. The comments by Mushin were made shortly after the country was placed on the US State Department’s Tier 2 watchlist for human trafficking.


19 thoughts on “Indian High Commission slams Education Ministry over stranded expatriate teachers”

  1. A visa system in which workers, whether teachers or laborers or others may come and go while working here makes a great deal of sense. Many of these people are here on a fairly long term basis, but are very much tied to their home countries. Frankly, the visa system should be set up to encourage them to travel back and forth more, not less. It will put less pressure on the social services of the country and it will encourage more trade as well as business for our airlines (both foreign and local). In fact, a very progressive policy would be to require those on work permits to leave the country at least once a year on an "annual leave" - but by doing so they may automatically qualify for renewal. In other words, the visa could be a multiple year visa, so long as they periodically left the country. This would encourage employers and workers alike to plan such annual leave and to ensure the workers have a hassle free way to return home without going through additional hassle of visa processing. We know these people are here for long term work, whether teachers or laborers. We should match the visa policy to the on-the-ground reality while still encouraging the workers to return home periodically.

  2. This is major problem. I personally had issue with visa renewal. Immigration, Labour Ministry and MIRA are working independently as a separate government and they are putting unnecessary conditions in order to find a way where people will not be able to travel out and then they can keep on putting fines where the Government will continue to earn money.

    This was something that was inherited from Gayyoon era and then it had again made worse during MDP regime.

    I know there are number of employers who are genuinely trying to keep updated the visas but due to in efficiency in the Government authorities and unrealistic bureaucracy , they were unable to keep updated.

    Worst thing is still those policies are in place rather than trying to find a better solution on handling this issue.

  3. As long as Maldives depends on highly proffessional teachers from India, it needs to treat with respect and dinity. I have seen the shabby treatment meted out to them. I pity their plight. The respective Ministry of Education and Immigration need to be efficient in solving their problems, dho?

  4. Cut the working hours of government offices even further, and you'll have even more "efficiency", Maldivian style. This is a disgrace and regime should bear full responsibility for it. Those affected should claim compensation from the regime, since being stranded in Male is neither pleasant nor cheap!

    The Maldivian Civil Service is one of the largest (by proportion to the population) and most inefficient in the world (yet another record for the Maldives). Gayyoom effectively left it uncontrolled and MDP couldn't do anything to control it, as any policy to make the civil service more efficient was blocked by Parliament.

    Just take a note of the Ministry involved in this fiasco; i.e. the Ministry of Education. Who are the heads of the Civil Service? Yes, you're right, most of them are ex-Education Ministry employees. Coincidence? I think not.

  5. Maldives is a thankless society and most Maldivians are generally thankless - they expect favours and services from foreigners as if it is their right, notwithstanding their inability to pay a fair price for it. It is simple to say that they need to be educated to respect the rights of others as well as their obligations to those who serve them. But since they seems to have little respect either for themselves or their society what can expat workers from India or Bangladesh expect.

  6. Indian High Commissioner's son is working for Gayoom Daughter Dhunya's husband Shuaib SHah's law firm.. so that says it all...

  7. This is the result of a really inefficient civil service and lack of respect for others. The people responsible for managing the visa applications and process of the expats are not bothered about the inconvenience this will cause to the expats and about their right to travel back to their home country without any hassle. This society is hopeless really and bryam is right, the majority of Maldivians old and young have no idea what gratitude means and all we can do is complain about things. Sad thing is that this trend is getting worse thanks to our political leaders who themselves act like clowns.

  8. When is the Civil Service Commission going to do something about the appalling performance of the civil servants?

    The Civil Service is a disgrace to our nation. With the exception of a few people every government office you go to, you see bored, arrogan, full of it, ignorant, can't be bothered, come back tomorrow, and "bring a letter" officials when we go to them for a service.

    The civil service is corrupt to the core. The performance appraisals done by the Permanent Secretaries is a joke. People do what they like, no one is held accountable.

    And what about the Permanent Secretaries who are paid these huge salaries to manage the civil servants in ther respective ministeries? Who are they accountable to?

    According to the law the CSC. Isn't it about time the parliament asked the CSC why they keep such incompetent people like Amal year in year out in their positions?

  9. I was in Immigration Department last week to renew my passport. I waited 1 & 1/2 hours to submit the form!

  10. Stories like this make my blood boil with anger.
    Maldives is yet another country where poor workers from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are exploited and mistreated.
    I look forward to the day when Indian workers.....both skilled and unskilled..... will not need to travel abroad to take up third rate jobs in fourth rate countries.

  11. What is going on here is really a Stupidity, I dont if this is becoz of inter politics happening inside, or the people.!!

    eg:- We had a labour who left Maldives and we are supposed to cancel his work permit, but when we approach the immigration to cancel this employee's work permit as he left the country, they say that this person has not been flew from Maldives. 😛 ,, WTH, they even dont knw who left , who came ?????

    isn't the systems updated ??

  12. Most teachers whose visas expire in January receive their work visa cards by the time they leave the Maldives in November. This happened last years and will happen this year too. Teachers face lots of difficulties especially when they go to a hospital or bank as they cannot get anything done without this card. They have nothing to do with this card when they go back to their countries. The authorities seem to have less or no concern about the teachers who serve in remote islands. With their guidance and devoted service, the students in them too produce excellent results every year. Authorities should encourage them at least by giving their work visa cards on time. Teachers have their doubts whether some authorities in the Ministry of Education and Department of Immigration and Emigration deliberately penalize the teachers to receive some financial gains. Teachers are entitled for two way air tickets to their home country when they leave for their annual leave. Last year, the ministry allowed a large number of teachers having worked almost whole year to leave the country a few weeks or days earlier on their own tickets. The ministry provided them only the tickets to return. This year quite unusually the school closing date has been postponed by another week. This will indirectly persuade the teachers to leave the country on their own expenses and letting the ministry to have this money. All these narrow-minded measures will eventually make the teachers more discouraged and unhappy.

  13. The Ministry gave me my work visa card when I left the country late November last year. Like me, there were many other teachers in the Ministry to get them. I handed over my photos and documents on my arrival in January that year. Other teachers too had the same story. Should any other example needed to show how the officials in the ministry fulfill their responsibilities?

  14. Don't know why this peoples are doing like this to expatriates?
    This is Torturing.................................

  15. Some officials in the Education Ministry are so keen only on recruiting new teachers. The more teachers they can recruit, happier they are. They don’t mind the rest of the things that may happen. Just ask an Indian teacher how much they were asked to pay before coming. Penalising them begins even before they arrive here. Does this huge amount of money go only to the employment agency? Where is the so called ‘zero tolerance for corruption’?

  16. What if a multiple entry visa is given to professionals with reference to their job contract?

  17. I am ashamed to tell that the Information Technology sectors are too much advanced in Maldives. But still there are very sluggish movement towards the issues pertaining to the renew of work visa. While we gather reasons for the delay the responsible departments blame one another.
    The ministry of education should take necessary initiative to issue the renewed work visa to the teachers in the school where they work it self on or before the expiring date.


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