The Mohamed Muizzu administration has announced that it will soon introduce additional island-specific permits for migrant workers, a move aimed at strengthening the management and documentation of foreign labour. This new regulation will function alongside the existing government-issued work permits, according to Minister of Homeland Security and Technology Ali Ihusaan.

The decision is a cornerstone of the Muizzu administration’s broader strategy to address the issue of undocumented migrant workers—a challenge the administration has vowed to overcome within three years. As a preliminary step towards this goal, government agencies initiated ‘Operation Kurangi’ this May, launching a comprehensive data collection mission targeting the migrant worker population within the country. The operation began on Himmafushi Island in Kaafu Atoll and has already shed light on the discrepancies in migrant worker documentation, he said.

“Initially, it was believed that there were approximately 700 migrant workers in Himmafushi Island. However, through the operation, we identified and collected information about over 800 migrant workers on that island,” Minister Ihusaan said in an interview with the state broadcaster. The operation aims to pinpoint migrant workers who have, until now, eluded official documentation and identification processes, he added.

Despite existing laws that require local councils to maintain updated records of all migrant workers within their jurisdictions, enforcement has been lax due to the absence of effective mechanisms. Minister Ihusaan announced that collecting biometric data during ‘Operation Kurangi’ would soon empower local councils to access this information, facilitating the maintenance of accurate and up-to-date databases.

“In addition to the government-issued work permit, local councils will soon be required to issue a distinct permit for migrant workers operating within their jurisdiction, enabling the maintenance of current records in the database,” said Minister Ihusaan.

Addressing the complexities surrounding the deportation of undocumented migrant workers, Minister Ihusaan acknowledged the government’s ongoing efforts to streamline these processes. A notable advancement in this area is the finalised agreement with the national carrier, Maldivian, which will aid in the deportation of undocumented immigrants. The Minister also noted the challenges in deporting undocumented workers compared to documented migrants, who can be deported within 48 hours of arrest for any violation.