Ministry ‘uncertain’ when Bangladesh labor ban will be lifted, as probe continues

A group of migrant workers sit by the beach in Hulhumale'. (File Photo/Sun/Fayaz Moosa)

The Maldivian Home Ministry was unable to say on Monday when the ban on recruitment of unskilled laborers from Bangladesh will be lifted, as it continues to investigate multiple instances where fake documents were used to bring in laborers.

The Home Ministry confirmed the re-imposition of the ban last week. Back then, ministry spokesperson Fathimath Rifaath said that the recruitment of unskilled laborers from Bangladesh was suspended a month back.

She said that the ministry took the decision, after it noticed a number of recruitment companies submitting fake documents, to bring in laborers.

Rifaath told Sun on Monday morning that the ministry cannot lift the ban until it finishes its investigation into the case.

The law requires that the number of unskilled workers from each source country to be capped at 100,000.

Maldives had imposed a ban on the recruitment of unskilled laborers from Bangladesh in September 2019, during the former administration, after announcing that workers from the neighboring country far exceeded that number.

The incumbent administration had lifted the ban in December last year, before the recent reversal.

Home Minister Ali Ihusan said the government decided to lift the ban on unskilled laborers from Bangladesh, because the number stood at 90,624 at the end of last year.

He said the ban would be re-imposed if the number reached the 100,000-limit.

Illegal migration remains a longstanding issue in the Maldives.

The Home Ministry recently launched a special operation under the name ‘Kurangi’, in a crackdown on illegal migration.

The biometrics of over 700 migrants have been collected under the operation.

At a session of the ‘Ahaa’ public forum back in April, Ihusan said the issue of undocumented migrants will be resolved in three years.

He said that the collection of biometric data of migrants was just phase one of the operation, which is expected to wrap up within one year. He said that once the data on all migrants are collected and entered into a system, the government will then regularize all undocumented migrants.

Ihusan warned that those who fail to make use of the opportunity will be deported, but stressed that the goal is not to arrest and deport migrants, but to give them a chance to get regularized.