The Maldives Police Service (MPS) has detained 50 undocumented migrant workers in a special operation in Malé aimed at combating illegal immigration. These individuals have been handed over to Maldives Immigration for further processing, according to police.

The operation, known as “Operation Kurangi,” was launched by the Homeland Security Ministry to identify and verify the legal status of migrant workers residing and working across the country. Initiated in May, Saturday’s operation specifically targeted the local market area in Malé and produce markets scattered throughout the capital city.

Homeland Security Minister Ali Ihusaan emphasised the threat posed by illegal immigrants to national security during a press briefing on Thursday. As part of Operation Kurangi, authorities have already identified a significant number of undocumented migrant workers. However, the exact count remains undisclosed.

Biometric data and photographs of all migrant workers are being collected as part of the operation. While the Mohamed Muizzu administration labels undocumented immigration as a national security threat, the government is also considering lifting the cap on the number of migrant workers from a single country allowed to work in the Maldives.

Operation Kurangi is being executed in two phases and is expected to conclude within three years. During the initial phase, authorities will ascertain the countries of origin, exact numbers, and employment details of migrant workers, Minister Ihusaan announced in May. The subsequent two-year phase will focus on identifying undocumented workers based on the biometric data collected.

Minister Ihusaan also announced the compilation of a registry containing information on all migrant workers nationwide. This registry will be shared with local councils, he added.

Immigration Controller Mohamed Shamaan Waheed said the apprehended undocumented immigrants will be deported under relevant policies.” Some of those detained on Saturday were found to be engaged in illegal business activities, according to Waheed.

The operation also led to the closure of numerous vendor lots in produce markets, as undocumented immigrants fully staffed these outlets, police said. While the law prohibits employing migrants as cashiers in shops, cafés, and restaurants, many businesses continue to violate these regulations. In Malé, a significant number of local shops rely entirely on migrant workers for staffing.