COVID-19: Maldives repatriates 352 undocumented Bangladeshi workers

COVID-19: Maldives repatriates 352 undocumented Bangladeshi workers

Maldives’ government on Friday, repatriated an additional 352 Bangladeshi nationals with undocumented status.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdulla Shahid made the announcement via Twitter, and thanked his Bangladeshi counterpart, AK Abdul Momen and High Commissioner Rear Admiral M Nazmul Hassan for their assistance in making the necessary arrangements.

In an effort to repatriate undocumented migrant workers, the Maldives' government had previously operated three repatriation flights, carrying 487 undocumented Bangladeshi citizens living in Maldives, back to their home nation.

On April 21, Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdulla Shahid confirmed that 68 Bangladeshi nationals with undocumented status were repatriated via a Bangladeshi military aircraft.

An additional 353 Bangladeshi nationals were repatriated on May 16 via a flight chartered by the government of Maldives, while 67 departed via a Bangladeshi Air Force aircraft on May 17.

Till date, the government's repatriation operations have returned a total of 840 undocumented migrant workers back to Bangladesh.

On May 5, addressing the nation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih revealed arrangements were underway to repatriate 1,500 undocumented Bangladeshi workers, following discussions with the Bangladeshi government concerning the rise in COVID-19 infections among the Bangladeshi community in Maldives.

Bangladeshi nationals make up the majority of the expatriate population in Maldives, which numbers at over 144,600, out of which authorities estimate 63,000 were undocumented.

COVID-19 outbreak in the Maldives’ capital has disproportionately affected its migrant worker population, the majority of whom are Bangladeshi nationals living in highly congested quarters where it is impossible to reduce contact or exercise social distancing. Their often small-spaced living conditions have been described by local and international civil society organizations as, "claustrophobic", "unsanitary" and "overcrowded".

Maldives recorded its first case involving a migrant worker, who was from Bangladesh, on April 19. Since, the total number of Bangladeshi workers that have tested positive for the virus have surpassed 660, comprising roughly 52 percent of all confirmed cases in the country. One Bangladeshi national has died from the infection.

Presently, Maldives records 1,274 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 1,161 active cases, 109 recoveries and four fatalities. Its capital Malé, one of the most densely populated places in the world, has recorded a significant increase in COVID-19 cases since recording its first local transmission on April 15.

The World Health Organization has classified the spread of COVID-19 as a global pandemic. The new strain of novel coronavirus has infected over 5.29 million people and claimed over 339,400 lives around the world. However, 2.15 million people have recovered from the infection.