Immigration launches voluntary repatriation program for undocumented workers

Bangladeshi workers wait to board a repatriation flight to Dhaka on July 15, 2020. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

Maldives Immigration has announced a voluntary repatriation program to facilitate the return of migrant workers with expired work visa or employment approval who wish to return to their home countries.

In a statement on Saturday, Maldives Immigration said that many migrant workers have been requesting to be repatriated to their home countries following the reopening of Maldives’ borders for international travel earlier this July, and that the institution has therefore made the decision to facilitate the return of migrant workers in the country whose work visa or employment approval have expired.

However, migrant workers with any restriction on international travel will not be granted assistance for repatriation under the program.

Migrant workers with valid passports, who are not restricted from international travel, can directly go to the airport for repatriation from July 24 to December 31.

They are required to fill out an application for voluntary departure, available for download on Maldives Immigration’s website.

Meanwhile, facilitation for repatriation of migrant workers without passports or with expired passports will be provided at Maldives Immigration’s Expatriate Monitoring and Repatriation Section between 08:30 am to 11:30 am on working days.

Maldives reopened its borders for international travel after a near four-month lockdown on July 15.

Maldivian Economic Development Minister Ismail Fayyaz announced earlier this July that the government plans on repatriating 20,000 undocumented workers this year.

Maldives has a population of close to 150,000 migrant workers. Fayyaz said while Maldives Immigration’s records place the number of undocumented migrant workers in the country at 62,000 – the actual figure is believed to be within the range of 80,000 to 100,000.

Most of the migrant workers in Maldives are Bangladeshis, and live in congested labor quarters which make them particular vulnerable to infectious diseases such as the new coronavirus.

More than 4,000 migrant workers, many of them undocumented, have been repatriated from Maldives under the repatriation program it rolled out in light of the coronavirus outbreak.