There are more than 200,000Immigrant workers living in Maldives. These people are serving our country in critical fields as doctors, nurses, teachers and economically enriched sectors such as tourism and hospitality. A Large number of these workers have migrated from neighboring countries like Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Thailand and Philippines and most of them have brought their families here too. The expat workforce is a strong pillar of Maldivian economy but a recent law introduced by the Government may prove to be noxious for their families.
According to an official of Immigration Department who wish to remain anonymous, said that the Current government has stopped accepting visa of family members or dependents who want to accompany the expats to Maldives. The family members who are already living with the emigrants are being ordered to leave the country else they’ll be imposed with huge penalties for over steeping. They are even forcing children, pregnant women and old age parents to exit the country .
It is not the first time that such a rule has been imposed on the emigrants. In August 2016, current government approved a bill imposing a tax of 3% on remittances sent abroad by the Maldives’ expat force. An amendment to the Employment Act makes it mandatory for the employers to deposit salaries of expatriate workers with local banks only. These kind of laws being mounted on the migrated forces is not a good sign for our economy. Maldivian economy is already burdened under foreign debt and to repay them we need a strong economy propelled by a strong workforce. Such decisions by Yameen Government only shows their disloyalty towards the public and the country. The present condition of expatriates in Maldives is deteriorating day by day. Maldives voice found endless stories of expatriate workers who live in extremely poor conditions.
Here is the story of a resort manager who is one of the worst affected by this new visa law. In his interview to us, Arjuna (Name Changed) told that he has been living here along with his family for past 7 years. Ever since they migrated from Sri Lanka, this land has treated them as their own but he has seen the things flipping since the Yameen government came in power. The high tax rates and difficult laws compels him to sacrifice a handsome amount of salary to the government and with this new law his family is being forced to leave the country. He asks the President “What will be the future of my children who are studying at school?”
Jeniffer, a social worker living in Male complains “we people come here on our missions and stay away from our families for years. Now, if our family members won’t be allowed to live with us or we will be paying taxes for their visits then how will we contribute to this country?” These sentiments are common among the expats especially after an entrance fee was imposed only on them for visiting the ‘Rasrani Bageecha’
Since Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) came into power, they have been mis-treating expatriates in Maldives. Illogical laws and authoritarian behavior of the current government clearly shows that they never think about the economic future of Maldives. We are living in a globalized era where every country welcomes expatriates with an open arm. Today, countries know the value of migrated workers in improving their respective economies and thus they keep them in mind while making important decisions. Moreover, the country is highly dependent on tourism for its economy, closing the doors for the global world can tarnish its economy completely. This Arbitrary and short sited visa regulation will have a disastrous Impact on Maldives, as a large number of workforce comes from neighboring countries.
The decisions made by the ruling PPM government clearly denies the essence of Democracy .