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2,000 Indian work permit applications pending after downswing in India-Maldives ties

Due to downturn in India-Maldives ties, an estimated 2,000 Indians have their applications pending for work permits, reports The Hindu.

Why are Indians being denied work permits?

Since February, when Maldivian President Abdulla Yameen ordered an Emergency and India took a strong stand against it, the Maldives Immigration Authority has reportedly held up thousands of work permits to Indians.

India-Maldives ties have been on the downswing since 2015 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi cancelled his visit to Male over the treatment of opposition leaders by President Yameen. Since then, China’s growing presence and a free trade agreement with Beijing, as well as President Yameen’s emergency declaration and arrest of opposition leaders, have led to protests from India, further straining ties.

The job crisis

And the strain in ties is not restricted to work permits alone. Even job advertisements are putting out the disclaimer that Indians can’t apply. Public advertisements from companies that are hiring clearly say “Indians need not apply”, as they would not be given work permits.

One post by the internationally renowned Marriott chain of hotels that advertised on Wednesday for 18 jobs said: “Please note that work permits are not currently being issued to Indian Nationals.”

The general manager of the St Regis in Vommuli, Alexander Blair, also advertised for the chef of an Indian speciality restaurant, adding on his page on the online jobs network LinkedIn, “Unfortunately, with the current situation that Work Permits are not being granted to Indian Nationals, we are ideally searching for an Indian who is holding another passport or is the spouse of a Maldivian.”

Is the Indian government offering any help?

Despite the increasing numbers of desperate job-seekers, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has refused to take up the matter and the Embassy of India in the Maldives (EoI) has replied to queries from job-seekers by saying it cannot help.

The Maldivian Embassy in Delhi declined to comment on the issue. On March 12, Immigration Department spokesman Hassan Khaleel told the Maldives’ Independent newspaper that reports of visa delays for Indians were “completely false”.

However, officials who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity said thousands of Indians face a squeeze on their work permits from the Maldivian government in place since February, and there appeared to be a “strict directive” from the Maldivian President’s office against work permits to Indians, as well as against facilitating other requests from Indian companies there. Around 29,000 Indians live and work in the Maldives.

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