90 percent Regularization Program applicants lack passports

Undocumented expatriate workers at the Galolhu National Stadium for appointments for Economic Ministry's regularization program on October 19, 2019. (File Photo/Sun/Ahmed Awshan Ilyas)

Economic Ministry says that a significant 90 percent of the undocumented workers who sought appointments to register for the Regularization Program aren’t in possession of their passports.

Economic Ministry officials were summoned for discussions regarding undocumented expatriate workers in Maldives by the Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Relations Committee this Monday.

Deputy Economic Minister, Mariyam Nazima said that the biggest challenge to remedying the issue of undocumented workers in Maldives was the lack of legal documents in their possession.

“One of the chief challenges is that around 90 percent of them aren’t in possession of passports. Most of them are Bangladeshi citizens… Now, no matter how much we work to reduce [the number of undocumented workers], we can’t deport them if they don’t have any travel documents,” said Nazima.

She said that Economic Ministry officials had engaged in discussions with the Foreign Ministry and all foreign missions in Maldives in a bid to expedite preparation of passports for the workers who aren’t in possession of it.

She said that the Bangladeshi Embassy said that preparation of passports for some of the workers would require three to six months, or longer.

Nazima said that the Economic Ministry was working on a way to have the workers fostered by a Maldivian citizen so the state continues to receive the work permit fee it is due until new passports can be prepared.

The Economic Ministry has issued appointments to at least 14,000 undocumented workers who wish to register for its Regularization Program.