Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced the repatriation of 420 undocumented Bangladeshi workers from Maldives.
According to the ministry, 353 Bangladeshi nationals were repatriated via a chartered flight by the government of Maldives on Saturday. The remaining 67 expatriates were transported Sunday morning, aboard a Bangladeshi Air Force aircraft which brought 10 tonnes of food supplies, medicine and medical equipment to Maldives this weekend.
The foreign ministry noted that the Bangladeshi workers were returned home as part of the state's efforts to repatriate undocumented foreign labourers, in collaboration with the Ministry of Economic Development.
Bangladeshi citizens make up the majority of the expatriate population in Maldives, which numbers at over 144,600, out of which authorities earlier estimated that 63,000 were undocumented.
In a move to regularise undocumented immigrants in the country, the government announced re-registration for undocumented expatriates in 2019, to be completed within a six-month period. By late February, Ministry of Economic Development revealed that 32,000 immigrants were registered under this initiative.
Other steps by the administration to curb undocumented migration include a one-year ban on contracting Bangladeshi labourers, in effect from September 18, 2019, onwards.
Previously, Minister of Economic Affairs Fayyaz Ismail revealed that a total of 837 undocumented workers had submitted requests for repatriation after the government opened for registration on March 21.
On May 1, Minister of Economic Development Fayyaz Ismail disclosed that work was underway to repatriate 300 Bangladeshi nationals.
President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih later that same week, on May 5, also announced that 1,500 Bangladeshi nationals with undocumented status were to be repatriated within the past week. However, authorities have not provided an official update on this operation.
Since the beginning of the community-wide outbreak of COVID-19 in Maldives, the total number of Bangladeshi expatriates that have tested positive for the virus have surpassed 550. Roughly 52 percent of all confirmed cases in the country are Bangladeshi citizens.
As many expatriates live in small, unhygienic and congested spaces, particularly in capital Male' City, officials have expressed concern that the COVID-19 outbreak places them at most risk of contracting and spreading the infection.
Maldives currently records 1,078 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 1,015 active cases, 59 recoveries and 4 fatalities. Capital city 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 country recorded its first COVID-19 related death, of an 83-year-old local female, on April 29. Since, three more individuals, a 33-year-old Bangladeshi man, and two local men, an 80-year-old and an 88-year-old succumbed to COVID-19.
The World Health Organization has classified the spread of COVID-19 as a global pandemic. The new strain of novel coronavirus has infected over 4.7 million people and claimed over 313,266 lives around the world. However, out of those infected, 1.81 million people have recovered.