Law reforms will ensure locals responsible over expats: Home Ministry

An expatriate worker loads goods into a boat. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

Ministry of Homeland Security and Technology on Wednesday said that the crucial legal reforms are made to ensure Maldivian business entities or individuals are responsible for the expatriates they bring for employment.

Maldives has a significant expatriate population employed in multiple sectors, while a majority of them are either illegal immigrants or operating businesses illegally.

While speaking on ‘Baaru Hathareh’ program of SSTV, Deputy Home Minister Ashraf Mohamed Ali said the current system restricts illegal entry into the Maldives using forged passports.

Ashraf however, noted the presence of several illegal expats in the Maldives, and highlighted ongoing efforts by the ministry and affiliated authorities to take necessary steps in curtailing the population of illegal workers.

He highlighted the need for legal reforms for a comprehensive resolution of the issue, noting the most important of this is to strengthen the policies related to expat visas.

“For instance, a company is taking quota of 40 to 50 projects and bring the workers here, and sometimes after they enter the Maldives, these workers are registered to different companies owing to conflicts with the original employer. It’s a never-ending issue,” Ashraf said.

Operation Kurangi officially launches; the multi-agency operation aims to collect biometric data of all migrant workers to assess illegal expatriates -- Sun Photo/ Moosa Nadheem

The deputy home minister noted of ongoing legal reform efforts to ensure Maldivian business entities or individual employers are responsible for the expats they bring.

While highlighting expats enter Maldives through local businesses or individual employers, Ashraf said enforcement efforts will continue even after the system is amended with legal reforms.

He also said the ministry, through the ongoing ‘Operation Kurangi’, discovered several expatriates working outside of the areas specified in their work permits. Ashraf said these expatriates were brought in on the assurance they will be employed in the areas of their preferences.

Ashraf noted that while the expats are required to be flown into registered sites, such abuse of the quota system must be eliminated.

“The point to note here is that expats must not enter Maldives without a local entity or individual employer being responsible for them, otherwise it would complicate the matter further,” the deputy home minister commented.

The Controller General of Immigration has the authority to fine Maldivians found working with illegal expats, with an amount not exceeding MVR 50,000.

Meanwhile, the Maldives Immigration have launched a crackdown, especially in the Greater Male’ area focusing on small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) to evaluate involvement of illegal expatriates and businesses run illegally by foreigners.

The authority has been conducting the operation with regular detentions of expats they suspect of being involved in illegal businesses or are illegal expats.

Illegally operated businesses by expats are among the most prevalent issues Maldives face, with over 1,800 expats already discovered conducting businesses illegally in the country.

Earlier, the Ministry of Economic Development and Trade announced multiple business activities that now prohibit involvement or ownership of expats.