200 Bangladeshi workers repatriated from Maldives

Bangladeshi workers check-in to a repatriation flight to Dhaka on July 18, 2020. (Photo/Maldivian)

The Maldivian government, on Saturday, repatriated an additional 200 Bangladeshi workers from the country, as part of its voluntary repatriation program in collaboration with the national airline – Maldivian.

The repatriation flight departed to the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka on Saturday afternoon.

More than 4,500 workers have been repatriated to Bangladesh under the program, many of them undocumented.

The flight on Saturday is Maldivian’s 22nd repatriation flight to Dhaka, and follows a repatriation flight for 135 workers to Dhaka from Gan, Addu City last Friday.

In addition to Maldivian’s repatriation flights, Bangladeshi workers have also been repatriated on board chartered flights operated by Biman Bangladesh Airlines, and the Bangladeshi Air Force.

Maldivian Economic Development Minister Ismail Fayyaz recently announced the government plans on repatriating 20,000 undocumented workers this year.

Maldives has a population of close to 150,000 migrant workers. Fayyaz said while Maldives Immigration’s records place the number of undocumented migrant workers in the country at 62,000 – the actual figure is believed to be within the range of 80,000 to 100,000.

43,000 undocumented migrant workers registered for the regularization program rolled out by the Economic Development Ministry last year.

Most of the migrant workers in Maldives are Bangladeshis, and live in congested labor quarters which make them particular vulnerable to infectious diseases such as the new coronavirus.

Maldives identified its first coronavirus case on March 7, and declared a state of public health emergency over the pandemic less than a week later on March 12.

While coronavirus cases had initially been restricted to resorts and safaris, and later quarantine facilities holding inbound travelers, Male’ City identified its first coronavirus case on April 15, prompting a city-wide lockdown and a nationwide ban on nonessential travel.

The populous Male’ City has since become the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the country, contributing to over 90 percent of the total cases.

The vulnerability of migrant workers is evident from records of coronavirus cases released by the health authorities.

Maldives has recorded 2,913 coronavirus cases, 41 percent of whom are Maldivians, while the remaining 59 percent are foreign nationals. 1,357 people – making for 46 percent of total coronavirus cases – are Bangladeshis.

And while Maldives has confirmed 15 coronavirus related deaths, four of them are Bangladeshis.