90,000 Bangladeshis reside in Maldives, 36 percent regularly pay work permit fee

Home Minister Ali Ihusan speaks at a press conference on December 18, 2023.

Home Minister Ali Ihusan, noting there are 90,624 Bangladeshi workers residing in the Maldives presently on Monday night, said only 36 percent of them regularly their work permit fee.

Speaking during a press conference at Iskandar Koshi on Monday night, Minister Ihusan noted concerns had been raised by some media outlets and members of the general public on social media, including a former minister and an incumbent parliamentarian, alleging that the government lifted the ban on recruitment of unskilled laborers from Bangladesh unlawfully.

Minister Ihusan is referring to remarks made by two individuals from main opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP): former Economic Minister Fayyaz Ismail and Thulhaadhoo MP Hisaan Hussain.

Both individuals, referring to the report providing statistics of migrant workers publicized by the Economic Ministry, said there are over 139,000 active Bangladeshi work permit holders in the Maldives presently.

Therewith, they claimed that the ban on the recruitment of unskilled laborers from Bangladesh was lifted in violation of the Employment Act which caps the number of workers at 100,000.

At Monday night’s press conference, Minister Ihusan said the 139,220 active work permit holders stipulated in the report refers to the permits that are active to date, emphasizing on the scenario that if the employer has not revoked the permit, it will show as active, even if the person in question is no longer in the Maldives.

He added that the number of migrants in the Maldives will be directly clear from the Immigration database, including the specific number of Bangladeshi workers presently in the Maldives.

“That number is 90,642 workers. This is lower than 100,000 workers. Henceforth, us giving approval to recruit unskilled workers from Bangladesh is not contradictory to the law in anyway,” he said.

Minister Ihusan emphasized that the 2019’s ban on the recruitment of unskilled laborers from Bangladesh had prompted concern from businesses. He said the decision to revise the regulation was made with reference to number of workers.

He also said the administration, after reviewing the necessary matters, will grant approval to recruit unskilled workers from other countries, if possible.

Speaking further, Minister Ihusan said it is unclear how many workers are in the Maldives legally and how many workers are in the Maldives illegally at present. He added that the ministry is set to commence efforts to identify the numbers at the earliest.

Former Economic Minister Fayyaz Ismail had described the lift of the ban as a threat to national security, the economy and the society.

In a motion submitted to the parliament, Thulhaadhoo MP Hisaan Hussain said work related to employment cannot be undertaken by dividing them between two ministries as per the law.

She also alleged that the ban of on the recruitment of unskilled laborers from Bangladesh and other countries had been lifted by the current administration without any research.

Hisaan also pointed out that the foreign labor statistics and expat system report had been removed from the Economic Ministry’s website and X.

The Ministry said the report was omitted because the responsibilities had been shifted to the Home Ministry. They also pledged to make the report available on the Home Ministry’s website, as it is the organization that will now have to be unwearable regarding the matter.