Cabinet to Amend Laws to Ban Passport: Is this Redundant?

Hassan Moosa | June 3, 2024
Photo: MV+

The government yesterday announced its intention to ban Israeli passport holders from entering the Maldives. but the move will not be enforced until a bill is passed by the Parliament and ratified by the president.

The news has been met with much fanfare both at home and abroad, as it grabbed international headlines. However, there is uncertainty about what is actually in effect and what it means.


What Happened?

There was a cabinet meeting at the president’s office yesterday to discuss the topic of banning Israeli passport holders. Following the meeting, Minister of Homeland Security and Technology Ali Ihusaan met with the press and shared the outcome.

“The cabinet has decided to explore amendments to existing laws to restrict entry for individuals holding Israeli passports,” he said.

A dedicated cabinet sub-committee, comprising Ministers from various key departments, including foreign affairs, economic development and trade, tourism, Islamic affairs and home affairs, has been established to oversee this process.

Ihusaan said President Mohamed Muizzu had instructed the committee to initiate the necessary procedures promptly.

Ihusaan expressed confidence in the government’s ability to swiftly enact the proposed ban, citing its supermajority in parliament.

So in effect, the cabinet sub-committee will research and propose legislation to parliament. The ban on Israeli passports will only come into effect after it is passed by the parliament and ratified by the President.

What About the Opposition’s Bill in Parliament?

There is already a bill in parliament submitted by opposition MP Meekail Naseem to ban Israeli passport holders from entering the country.

Meekail, representing Galolhu Dhekunu, proposed an amendment to Article 8 of the Immigration Act. Article 8 specifies people who are barred from entering the Maldives.

If passed, this amendment would effectively prevent individuals holding Israeli passports, including those with dual passports, from entering the country.

Meekail told MV+ that it was unnecessary for the government to research and submit a second bill for this purpose.

“If the government wants to make any changes, they can amend the current bill at the committee stage and make any changes. I think this would make it unnecessarily lengthy,” Meekail said.

Responding to questions about whether the restrictions could be enforced via a presidential decree, Ihusaan explained that legal advice from the Attorney General recommended enacting such measures through legislation rather than executive decree.

“The state’s Attorney General advised us that, given the framework of our laws, imposing nationality-specific restrictions requires legislative action,” clarified Ihusaan.

When questioned about the government’s stance on Meekail’s bill, Ihusaan stated that further research is necessary before any official position can be taken.

“We will not exclude it just because it was submitted by someone, as long as it serves the objective we want”

How Effective is Banning the Israeli Passport?

Last year, Maldives welcomed 10,966 Israeli tourists, representing less than 0.6 % of the total tourists visiting the country. Many Israeli tourists visit the Maldives to surf islands like Thulusdhoo, near Male’.

Following yesterday’s decision, many social media users pointed out that most Israelis have dual passports, and Israeli citizens can just use their second passport.

However, the amendment to the Immigration Act proposed by Meekail will also ban Israelis who hold dual passports.