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Maldives to deport thousandsof illegal Bangladeshi workers

June 13, 2011 00:00:00

Kamrun Nahar

The Maldives plans to deport thousands of Bangladeshi labourers now working in the tiny nation illegally and stops issuing "on arrival" visas in an attempt to cut unwanted migration, its envoy in Dhaka said Sunday. The Indian Ocean island nation has been struggling in recent years to contain flow of foreign workers, mainly unskilled Bangladeshi labourers, lured by its new found economic fortune, which made it the richest nation per capita in South Asia. The Maldivian envoy to Bangladesh said unwanted foreign workers have emerged as a problem in his country, prompting the cabinet to approve a decision to streamline worker recruitment process recently. "The cabinet decision includes a programme to identify and deport illegal workers currently in the country," Ahmed Sareer, High Commissioner of the Maldives, told the FE. He did not say how many Bangladeshis are working in his country illegally or overstayed their visa tenures and whether they would be deported immediately or given any amnesty before the planned crackdown. But Maldivian foreign minister Ahmed Naseem last week said some 50,000 Bangladeshi are now working in his country --- a nation of only around 400,000 people --- with one-third having no valid documents or registration. Sareer said Male has also decided to scrap on arrival visas for Bangladeshi workers and instead would issue "work visas" from its High Commission in Dhaka as part of its efforts to check illegal migration. "We are putting in place a stringent visa system following the cabinet decision. Under the new system, we will send back those who will be identified as illegal," he added. He also said the Bangladeshi workers would require additional documents verified and issued in Bangladesh before their work visas and identity cards could be issued in the Maldives. He said the exact number of illegal workers now staying in his country has not yet ascertained. "It is under the process of verification," he said. Minivan News, a daily in Male, reported in its June 8 issue quoting Immigration Controller Abdulla Shahid that there are at least 100,000 foreign workers currently staying in the country --- half of which is illegal. Earlier this month Naseem told the FE Male had planned to register Bangladeshi workers now staying in his country, but he urged Dhaka to come up with efforts to tackle illegal migration, which has spawned a thriving business for rogue Bangladeshi recruiters. When contacted, Secretary of the expatriates' welfare ministry Zafar Ahmed Khan told the FE that he was not aware of any Maldivian government plan to deport Bangladeshi workers. He said Dhaka was working on a plan to curb illegal migration of Bangladeshi workers to the Maldives. "Foreign ministers of the two countries have signed a framework agreement recently in a bid to streamline our manpower sending process to the Maldives," the secretary said. "Definitely we cannot encourage illegal migration to other countries, which damages our image," Mr Zafar added. Minivan quoting ex-Bangladeshi envoy Selina Mohsin said last year on an average 40 Bangladeshi nationals were arriving in Male every day. "Having come to the Maldives and found they have nothing to do," she said.

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