New reforms to ensure Maldivians owe duty of care for expat workers

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Ministry of Homeland Security and Technology on Wednesday said that crucial legal reforms are currently in draft stages that will ensure Maldivian employers are held legally liable for the expatriates they bring to the Maldives on employment.

The growing number of expat population in the island nation has been a prevalent and pressing concern for decades, while the number of illegal immigrants and expats who own and operate businesses illegally are matters that have been intensifying to alarming levels but with little to no government intervention or action.

For decades, these issues have been either talked seldom or completely swept under the rug – all of which, came to a culmination after the current administration launched the nationwide crackdown to identify the expatriate population, under the title ‘Operation Kurangi’.

So far, according to the Home Ministry and Maldives Immigration, biometrics of over 1,500 expatriates have been collected under the program.

While speaking on a program on SSTV, the Deputy Home Minister Ashraf Mohamed Ali said the current system restricts illegal entry for expatriates using forged passports.

He however stressed the presence of several illegal workers in the Maldives, and highlighted ongoing efforts by affiliated authorities and the ministry to curb and control the issue.

“For instance, a company is taking quota of 40 to 50 projects and brings 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 on the program.

He pointed out to ongoing legal reforms to address these issues, and noted that the reforms focus on ensuring Maldivian businesses and individual employers are legally held responsible for the foreign workers they bring to the country.

Though the system is poised for an overall correction going forward in light of new reforms underway, Ashraf said enforcement efforts will remain consistent.

“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,” Ashraf said.

Earlier, the Controller General of Immigration said those found violating the regulations related to expatriates, especially Maldivians found working with illegal expats, will be fined with an amount not exceeding MVR 50,000.

Meanwhile, Immigration is continuing its crackdown across local small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) to identify businesses owned, operated or managed by immigrants illegally or those run by illegal immigrants.

There have been a string of detentions in relation to the recent raids, where Immigration have taken several expatriates into custody owing to suspicions related to their business activities.

Authorities have already discovered over 1,800 immigrants operating businesses in the Maldives by illegal means, often times the brunt of this faced by Maldivian counterparts as expatriates have close links with suppliers abroad compared to local businessmen.

A number of criminal activities, ranging from currency exchangers to prostitution rings have been operated by foreigners, while some of the individuals involved in such activities have been detained for further investigation.

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