Out of the nearly 200,000 migrant workers in the Maldives, over 60,000 are in the country illegally.
Speaking on RaajjeTV’s Fala Surukhee programme on Tuesday, Deputy Chief Immigration Officer Mohamed Shifan that the statistics collected by May this year shows that there are 136,580 foreigners in the country on work visas.
He added that they estimate that there are over 60,000 living in the country, illegally.
Shifan further noted that there are visa fee payment issues with the 136,580 migrant workers, noting that sometimes their place of work tends to change after arriving in the island nation.
Stressing that the Maldives Immigration is owed visa payment fees from a number of companies, the deputy officer said that they are working to collect these. He said that the biggest obstacle to this is the current system, describing it “not the most convenient”.
Further noting that they are reviewing the institution’s work prior to 2019, the Maldives Immigration official emphasized that this review has revealed evidence of corruption and fraudulent practices within the institution.
Back in March 2019, Maldives Immigration took action against 27 companies for bringing in expatriates unlawfully and neglecting their responsibilities afterwards. It had revealed that 67 companies were under investigation.
Speaking in regard to this, Shifan highlighted that 28 companies are currently being investigated, as well as the suspected fraudulent practices by the Maldives Immigration. However, he stressed that there are challenges to obtaining documents prior to 2019.
As for the 28 companies, the Immigration officer said that they are suspected of bringing over 16,000 migrant workers to the country and ‘letting them go’.
The incumbent administration had, in 2019, opened the opportunity for undocumented migrants to re-register themselves.
The programme was a result of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih’s decision to implement a policy on strengthening foreign labor regulations and to address the issue of an increasing number of cases in employment of migrant workers, illegally.
Further, the policy highlights ways to reinforce regulations on ways to handle illegal employment as well as the issuance of work permits and formulation of a ‘National Task-force on Issues Related to Migrant Workers’.