The permeability of Maldives border

Under the regulation published on January 26, 2023, any foreigner suspected of smuggling drugs into the Maldives may be sent back without allowing entrance instead of legal measures being taken.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih

While the Maldives holds a picture-perfect image in the tourism industry as one of the most beautiful and luxurious spots for a romantic getaway, there are so many underlying problems that society faces in this country. One of them is the increasing drug problem that continues to get worse as little to no action is taken towards helping the youth or holding people accountable for facilitating this issue.

Even though this is nothing new in Maldivian society, accessibility to drugs has gotten easier throughout the years. Lately, it feels like every other person has a minor drug abuse issue, even when it comes to young teenagers who are yet to understand the negative effects of drug abuse. And while there are several reasons why the drug problem in the Maldives keeps getting worse, causing the youth to turn to drug abuse, part of the biggest downfall in the Maldivian society is the lack of help that is provided to overcome addiction.

On top of receiving little to no help in overcoming addiction and providing rehabilitation, the Maldives drug dealers and traffickers are rarely held accountable. So, going in and out of jail for minor drug-related offences, is an extremely common thing in the country, and it appears that the usage and abuse of drugs in this society is slowly but surely getting normalised.

The Maldives has very strong anti-drug laws that prohibit importing and possession of drugs which carry severe penalties and even life imprisonment, it is extremely common for the legal system in the Maldives to overlook problems rather than deal with them.

While severe punishment may not be the help that people with drug problems need, the failed rehabilitation in the Maldives is also no secret. As the topic surrounding drugs and abuse is so taboo in the country, it is almost overlooked, and while the issue keeps worsening it appears that people in charge of policy and reforms for the betterment of the country, do not want to talk about it.

More often than not, drug-related cases are not dealt with according to what is stated in the Maldivian law. And recently this case was also brought up in a Parliament sitting of the Maldives regarding a case of drug importation being highly dismissed as steps were not taken according to the law.

The case involved a foreigner travelling through Doha, Qatar getting suspected of trying to import drugs into the Maldives, and upon suspicion, the immigration officers checked for security reasons and verified that the visitor was in fact carrying drugs in their luggage with the intention to import into the Maldives. And while this case should have immediately been dealt with by the Maldivian police and immigration, the case was dismissed and the only punishment faced by the foreigner was deportation back to the country they arrived from.

So why was this case dealt with this way instead of taking action within the Maldives? While the drug laws in the Maldives used to be much stricter and anyone importing drugs had to face legal consequences in the Maldives, as per a new regulation amendment published on January 26, 2023, any foreigner suspected of smuggling drugs into the Maldives may be sent back without allowing entrance.

While drug trafficking is a major issue in most countries, holding severe punishment, with this new regulation it appears that foreigners trying to smuggle drugs into the Maldives get little to no punishment.

This issue raised an emergency motion in the Parliament as Henveiru West MP Hassan Latheef raised this issue urging the Government to remove this new section of the regulation that was brought about on January 26, 2023. Further discussing this issue, the leader of the Jumhoori Party, Qasim Ibrahim also noted that allowing drug traffickers to get away so easily with no punishment is only adding to the worsening condition of Maldivian society and having such regulation is against the Constitution.

"I believe that no rule can be made against the Constitution and the law. And no one should obey an order under a Regulation which is against the Constitution and the law. That is, no matter who the leader is. Somewhere some people are trying to undermine the Constitution or the laws,"
Jumhoori Party leader Qasim Ibrahim

With such regulations being created in a country that is already fighting an uphill battle against drug trafficking and addiction, it seems like such a regulation would only add to the problem. Letting drug traffickers get away easily only shows them that the Maldivian law would let them get away easily, only facilitating the worsening problem in the Maldives.

While it is easy to say the Maldives has an increasing drug problem and blame the youth for it, maybe it is time we all look at how big of a role politicians play in facilitating these problems in the Maldives. Not only does the country treat anyone with a drug problem as a person who deserves little to no rights, but there is also a severe lack of rehabilitation. This means that even if somebody admitted to having a drug issue and wanted to get help, they would not know the first place to go, or who to turn to in order to get the help they need.

But in order to make things worse, this new regulation makes it much easier to import drugs into the Maldives, meaning we might be looking at the drug issue in the Maldives only getting worse. While the law is supposed to work in order to make a country a better and safer place for its citizens, it seems like the Maldivian law is only going backwards.

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