Govt hopes to repatriate 20,000 undocumented expat by end of year

Economic Minister Fayyaz Ismail has stated that the government hopes to send back at least 20,000 undocumented migrants in the Maldives before the end of the year.

The government estimates that over 70,000 illegal migrant workers reside in the Maldives. Over 90 percent of the workers are believed to be from Bangladesh. The government last year suspended bringing in any additional workers from Bangladesh.

Speaking at the Parliament on Monday, Minister Fayyaz said the suspension of bringing in blue collar workers from Bangladesh was effective in stopping the illegal entry of Bangladeshi citizens, which in turn decreased the number of undocumented migrant workers in the Maldives.

After the suspension became effective on September 19, 2019, only about 1,000 skilled labourers entered the country, all of whom had already requested and been granted permission for entry prior to September 19. No other Bangladeshi workers have entered the country since then, said Fayyaz.

The minister pointed out that the government’s regularization program conducted to register undocument and illegal expatriate workers was well received, and that a large number of workers are cooperating with the repatriation opportunities provided by the government as a result of the program. In this regard, over 4,000 labourers have been repatriated to date, said the minister.

“We hope to repatriate 20,000 undocumented expatriates with their cooperation. We do not wish to repatriate them against their wishes. The government’s attempts to regularize undocumented expats paved the way to a smooth transition - had we forced them to leave the country, the response would not have been as cooperative,” said the minister.

The minister said the Maldives faces serious migrant issues and that it would take time to solve the matter appropriately. However, whatever action that can be taken now to address the issue will be taken, assured the minister.