Tourist establishments warned against employing undocumented workers

Migrant workers wear face masks to protect against the spread of the new coronavirus as engage in supplying shops in Male' City on May 14, 2020. (Sun Photo/Fayaz Moosa)

Tourism Ministry has warned that tourist establishments found to be employing undocumented migrant workers will be penalized.

The Tourism Ministry issued the warning in a circular it released on Friday, which urges both upcoming tourist establishments and operating tourist establishments to ensure all migrant workers, whether direct employees or employees of subcontractors, are in possession of valid work permits.

It states that both developers and operators of tourist establishments are required ensure that all workers are in possession of valid documents as required by the laws and regulations of Maldives.

“Kindly abide with these requirements as penalties can be imposed as per the relevant legislation,” said the Tourism Ministry in its circular.

Maldives, with its limited natural resources is heavily dependent on tourism as a source of income. The coronavirus pandemic has hit the country’s tourism industry hard, with resorts forced to closed, and hundreds of resort workers laid off.

Tourism Minister Ali Waheed has stated that the government will use the time before it reopens the country’s borders to tourists to affect positive changes to the industry.

And Male’ City Mayor Shifa Mohamed recently stated that companies will no longer be allowed to employ undocumented migrant workers.

The Economic Ministry had launched a large-scale program to regularize undocumented migrant workers in late 2019, prior to the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic.

Some 43,000 workers were provided with valid documents under the program.

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.

The vulnerability of migrant workers is evident from records of coronavirus cases released by the health authorities. Maldives has recorded 1,773 coronavirus cases, 31 percent of whom are Maldivians, while the remaining 69 percent are foreign nationals. 974 people – making for 54 percent of total coronavirus cases – are Bangladeshis. And two of the five coronavirus fatalities in Maldives are Bangladeshis.

The Maldivian government is assisting in repatriating vulnerable undocumented migrant workers back to their home countries.

More than 1,000 undocumented Bangladeshi workers have been repatriated onboard chartered flights operated by the Maldivian Airlines, Biman Bangladesh Airlines, and the Bangladeshi Air Force since April 21.

And the National Emergency Operations Center (NEOC) has stated Maldives will be repatriating some 5,000 undocumented workers back to their home countries over the next three months.