Foreign Workers in Maldives Must Obtain Island-Specific Permits, Says Minister

Photo: John Salvino

Minister of Homeland Security and Technology Ali Ihusaan has revealed that the Maldivian government will introduce a new policy mandating foreign labourers obtain additional permits for each island they work on.

During an exclusive interview with PSM News, the minister stated that the policy is part of a broader strategy to combat illegal immigration, which includes a three-year timeline to resolve the issue.

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As part of this initiative, the government launched Operation Kurangi in May, a special programme to collect data on all foreign residents in the Maldives. The operation began in Himmafushi, Kaafu Atoll, where the actual number of foreign residents exceeded initial estimates, highlighting the extent of undocumented immigration.

Minister Ihusaan emphasised the necessity for a robust system to track foreign workers, noting that local councils are legally responsible for maintaining records but currently need more tools to do so effectively.

In addition to permit requirements, the government is working to streamline the deportation process for illegal immigrants. According to Minister Ihusaan, the cost of deportation is USD 519 after deducting the foreign worker’s deposit. He stated that those with proper documentation could be deported within 48 hours of arrest, though the process for undocumented individuals remains complex.

Efforts are also being made in collaboration with embassies to expedite these procedures, the minister added.

The initial phase of Operation Kurangi has already seen the collection of biometric data from 805 expatriates in Maafushi and 705 in Himmafushi. This data collection is expected to be completed within a year, after which the government will regularise all undocumented migrants.

Minister Ihusaan stressed that the goal is not to arrest and deport migrants but to provide them with the opportunity to legalise their status.

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