Naturalization of foreigners becomes a hot topic of debate

Central Henveyru MP Ali Azim. (File Photo/People's Majlis)

One single question asked by a parliamentarian on Twitter regarding an opinion on whether Maldives should enact legislature to pave the way for naturalization of foreigners who have been living in Maldives for decades has sparked debate.

The question was asked by the parliamentary group leader of ruling MDP, the Central Henveyru MP Ali Azim.

“There are foreigners who have been living in the Maldives for more than 30 years having become proud grandparents here. What do you think of granting citizenship to such 'foreigners'?” asked Azim in a tweet last Friday evening.

The response which the tweet garnered shows Maldivians are divided over the issue.

Some responded that there was no reason why Maldives should not allow naturalization of foreigners who contribute to the economic development of Maldives. Others commented that the 400,000 people of Maldives already faced immense challenges, and questioned how the country could manage an additional influx of “strangers” as citizens.

Some voiced concern over potential damage to Maldivian tradition and culture.

Maldives Citizenship Act was enacted in 1969. It establishes that any person who wishes to become a citizen of Maldives has the right to submit a written application to the Foreign Affairs Ministry.

It stipulates that the person qualifies a set of conditions. They are:

  • He/she is a Muslim
  • He/she has attained the age of 21 and is of sound mind
  • He/she has resided in the Maldives for a continuous period of 12 years. And if he/she has resided abroad, provided that the period is not more than six months, and but has resided in Maldives for a period amounting in the aggregate to more than 10 years
  • He/she has an adequate knowledge with regard to the Maldivian Constitution
  • He/she can orate in Dhivehi language; and has adequate edification
  • He/she has not committed a political offence, offences where Hudud punishments are prescribed in Islamic Shariah, or unlawfully produced, distributed or traded drugs.
  • He/she is of distinguished service to the Maldives.
  • He/she is a citizen of any country other than Maldives, provided he has renounced the citizenship of that country in accordance with the law therein force in that behalf and has officially notified in writing such renunciation to the Government of Maldives

The Act establishes that the President of the Maldives may, in his discretion, grant citizenship of Maldives to any person, who makes or has made an application for registration as a citizen of Maldives, subject to his qualification of the provisions the Act.

The opposition recently accused the current Maldivian administration of attempting to “sell out” Maldives to foreigners.

Deputy leader of PPM, Naifaru MP Ahmed Shiyam speaks at the Progressive Coalition's rally, Nuviennu, on August 1, 2019. (Photo/Sun/Fayaz Moosa)

Speaking at the Nuviennu rally held by the Progressive Coalition on Thursday, August 1, the deputy leader of PPM, Naifaru MP Ahmed Shiyam alleged the administration was working on legislative amendments to allow naturalization of foreigners to remedy economic slowdown due to lack of labor.

Shiyam said it was an attempt to sell voting rights to foreigners because the administration was simply a failure.