Undocumented in Maldives: 34k Bangladeshis to get papers
About 34,000 Bangladeshi undocumented migrant workers in the Maldives are in the pipeline for regularisation under an amnesty programme there, according to an estimate of Bangladesh High Commission in Malé.
Once they are documented, the workers will get legal and health insurance benefits. Besides, they can remit money home using their own documents through banking channels, helping increase inward remittance, said people of Bangladeshi community and high commission sources.
They said many currently send money through unauthorised channels as they are undocumented.
For the regularisation, a worker's employer has to apply for "work permit" to the Maldives' Economic Development Ministry, said a notice of the Bangladesh High Commission last month.
During her visit to the Maldives last December, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Maldivian President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih discussed regularisation of undocumented Bangladeshis, BSS reported.
Sohel Parvez, first secretary (labour welfare wing) of Bangladesh High Commission in Malé, said they have been providing different support services to the workers to speed up their documentation process.
"We are providing them with required information and trying to hand them over passports sooner."
The official said the process, open for other undocumented foreign migrant workers as well, is underway and that the Maldivian authorities have not yet declared a closing date.
Following an initiative, about 45,000 Bangladeshi undocumented workers got registered with the Maldives government in 2019. Till May this year, around 11,000 of them were regularised, he said, citing Maldivian officials.
After regularisation, Bangladeshi workers will get legal support and also come under health insurance coverage there, he added.
After some back and forth amid the pandemic, the amnesty programme got pace recently following resumption of different activities, Sohel added.
An estimated 1,00,000 Bangladeshis are currently involved in different sectors, mainly in construction, in the Maldives, making them the largest migrant community in the small South Asian country.
Many of them became undocumented at different times for various reasons after entering the country through proper channels, said sources at the high commission.
The Maldives is currently not hiring low-skilled workers from Bangladesh because of a large number of Bangladeshi undocumented workers there, the sources added.
Wishing anonymity, a Bangladeshi worker said due to him being undocumented, he sends money home either through informal channel or seeks help from fellow documented workers to do it.
He said an "identity card" is required to send money home via a bank which he does not have.
Imran Hossain Talukdar, a Bangladeshi employed at a company that sells marine equipment in Malé, said many Bangladeshi workers send money home via hundi as they are not documented workers.
Besides, if they are not paid, they cannot complain to the authorities.
Hundi is an illegal cross-boundary financial transaction system.
According to Bangladesh Bank data, Bangladeshi migrant workers in the Maldives sent home $44.74 million and $46.03 million in remittance in 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 fiscal years respectively.
But the remittance dropped to only $21.59 million in 2021-2022 fiscal year.