Maldives to restrict expatriate travel

The movement of foreigners throughout the Maldives will be restricted, according to new rules implemented by the ministry of human resources, youth and sport.

All foreigners wishing to travel between islands from 1 February 2010 must present appropriate documents to the captain or person in charge of the vessel, the ministry revealed.

Speaking to Minivan News, Minister of Human Resources Hassan Latheef said the travel restrictions were being implemented to reduce the number of illegal expatriate workers travelling between islands.

“The problem of illegal workers in this country is huge, we have been getting many complaints from islands,” he said.

“An example is in Laamu atoll: illegal workers have become involved in agricultural business and are driving local farmers out of business.”

He acknowledged that “while we can’t deport everyone, I believe that stopping them from moving around is the first step towards solving this issue.”

Proper documentation

From February all foreigners must carry one of three documents to be able to travel around the country: either a valid work permit, proper visa documents for visitors, or a special letter from the ministry allowing travel.

Any captain or vessel owner which transports foreigners without these documents will face legal action, the ministry said.


Asked how the community might react to such measures, Latheef said “There won’t be much difficulty in implementing these measures, because even now ships have to keep a log of all the passengers it carries. There will be no inconvenience at all, as most crews will be able to check documents very fast and efficiently.”

Asked about the impact on non-working foreigners in the country, Latheef said “All they have to do is provide a visa or document showing their purpose in the country.”

Tourists “may find this alarming,” admitted  Ahmed Solih, permanent secretary of the tourism ministry.

“But if the situation is explained, they will understand,” he said.

One expatriate currently working in the country wasn’t so sure.

“As someone who travels on a daily basis does this mean I have to carry my documents with me in case they are checked? Having to carry around papers all the time feels very restrictive,” he said.

“It feels like there is a currently a bit of a witch-hunt against expatriates, with the retraction of the liquor licences and the difficulty getting work permits – is the government trying to drive out skill sets the country doesn’t have?”

Solih said the problem of illegal workers was a national issue, particularly for a relatively small community like the Maldives.

“These measures may seem dramatic but this decision has only been made after many other alternatives have failed. I am sure there will be measures in the rules to account for the tourism industry.”


7 thoughts on “Maldives to restrict expatriate travel”

  1. how about issuing them a temporary identity card which states thier visa status etc. especailly for expatraite whi are working for along time,so that they don't have to carry their documents with them.this is common practise in alot of large countries..i guess this shouldnt be too hard to implement.

  2. what stupid idiots. the dhoni crew are not the police. why should they get punished for not checking EVERY SINGLE PERSON who 'looks like a foriegner' on their boats. bangalhis sometimes look maldivian.

    if latheef's ministry is so bothered about illegal workers, get some inspectors to go and check suspect illegal workers living on remote islands. after all, everyone on the island will know who the foreigners are. SUrely this makes more sense than checking every single foreigner in the country on every single dhoni between every single island!

    what happened to MDP's pledge to make government smaller? why set up this ridiculous bureaucracy that won't work anyways.

    these stupid ministers don't have a clue how to run a country. there stupid policies will never be enforced.

    In Guraidhoo bangalhis are working illegal and undercutting maldivian's salaries. so go send an inspector and deport them. we all know where they live.

    this is like in USA government saying: 'oh, anyone who looks a bit foreign must show paperwork before they can take a bus or train anywhere in the country!' An absurd restriction on travel.

    i know of a country that tried this sort of policy. get us all to spy on each other. get us all to snoop and report on what each other is doing. and report it all to Mr Latheef. that place was Nazi Germany.

  3. Really? Maldives is now Nazi Germany?

    Didn't the regulation come into force under the last administration that we all have to carry around our National Identity Cards with us everywhere? I mean, its not practiced (and i may be mistaken) but i was under the assumption that this was required of us anyways.

    The cost of deporting everyone as the guidelines outline currently are prohibitive because of how expensive it is to send these people back to their countries. The real tragedy is that we're losing focus from the unscrupulous employers who bring in these workers promising them the world.

    They are brought to the Maldives promising them accommodations, specific jobs, and high pay and then end up being stranded here. We of course can't stand them because they steal our jobs and take over our public spaces because there is just so many of them. In fact, we don't like them so much that Xenophobia is rampant throughout our country.

    For expats with developing NGOs,etc.., being issued a temporary ID card or work ID is not a big deal. When I lived in Nepal, I carried my Embassy and UN ID everywhere I went. It is something any expatriate working community should more than accustomed to. The ministry needs to work with these NGOs, UNOs, etc to make sure their staff get an ID Card which is easy to use.

    *the UN Staff are already issued with ID Cards even in Male'.

  4. Totally support this. With our unique geography, we would have find our own solutions for keeping check on illegal immigrants. Even in Malaysia, visitors are always required to carry their passports with them.

  5. I commend the ministry for taking this bold step. It will be an obligation for any government to ensure that its beloved citizen’s precede opportunistic economic immigrants to the country in reaping the economic benefits from the country.

    Certainly there should not be discrimination to visitors on how we treat them, but it is a different matter to decide that the economic benefits should at first is sought for the locals before we engage foreigners for the same purpose.

    For instance in Europe, it’s quite difficult to get a job for non-Europeans, so those who do not belong to that Christian club, will not be taken in even if they are equally qualified. They also have enough regulations to make life difficult for the visitors to those countries too. So whats the problem? Whats wrong in following developed countries path for all the glory and advancement.

  6. Does this mean that all the Dhoni Captains will have to be trained up to act as immigration officer and will the be given rights to detain people who do not have the necessary documentation?
    Surly, the people who knowingly employ these illegal workers, would have access to boats, and will ferry them around unhampered. It does not sound like a properly thought out piece of legislation to me.

  7. This is utterly a draconian laws. The government is very much immature and I am appalled to hear that this rules applies to the tourist who come to Maldives. Before implementing such a rule government needs to discuss with concerned authorities such as the tourism minitry MATI etc.It is really disgusting for government to adopt such a punitive measures to the tourist as we are not being restricted in their countries to move around


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