The Department of Immigration and Emigration has announced a special repatriation program offering leniency for undocumented migrant workers who wish to return to their home countries voluntarily on their own expenses.
The program is set to begin tomorrow (December 23) and will allow migrant workers to return to the Maldives within six months of departure. However, if workers are deported, they are not allowed to come back to the Maldives for ten years.
According to the Immigration department, the purpose of the new program is to register and regulate undocumented migrant workers.
The likelihood of repatriated workers returning to the Maldives to work illegally will be slim due to increased monitoring, Deputy CEO of Immigration Abdulla Munaz told local newspaper Haveeru
Munaz said that, even if a thousand workers are sent off each month, it would take the government 35 months to send off all undocumented workers.
While there is no official data available on undocumented migrant workers, estimates have put it as high as 44,000.
The current program’s target is to repatriate 5,000 – 10,000 workers.
Registration will take place from 23 – 31 December 2013 and 5- 6 January 2014, on all working days between 0900hrs – 1700 hrs at Dharumavantha School, Male’. Workers are to be sent home within two days of registration.
On December 5, Immigration Controller Hassan Ali announced that the institution’s biggest focus in the first 100 days of Yameen’s government would be to address the issue of illegal immigrants.
The Maldives has been on the US State Department’s Tier Two Watch List for Human Trafficking for four consecutive years. The US says the Maldives is a destination country for human trafficking, including sex trafficking, forced labor and debt bondage.
The Immigration department’s 100 day plan includes offering illegal immigrants a chance to change employees, and increasing the number of illegal immigrants who will be deported in 2014.
The immigration controller also revealed plans to re-register undocumented workers, establish an online system of obtaining work visas from Kulhudhuhfushi Island in northern Maldives and forming a single office to deal with all work related to migrant workers.
The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives has previously expressed concern over a mass repatriation program this year. The commission said the state should provide such workers with their due wages and compensation before sending them off.