The government of Maldives has revealed that nearly a thousand undocumented Bangladeshi nationals living in the Maldives were repatriated recently.
Some 352 undocumented Bangladeshi citizens had left the country on May 22, according to the foreign ministry of Maldives, The Edition reported.
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Maldives, Abdulla Shahid made the announcement via Twitter, and thanked his Bangladeshi counterpart, AK Abdul Momen, the High Commissioner Rear Admiral M Nazmul Hassan, and the Minister of Economic Development and his team for their assistance in the operation.
Maldives' government had previously operated three repatriation flights to Bangladesh, and carried 840 undocumented Bangladeshi citizens living in Maldives, back to their home nation.
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.
On April 21, the Maldivian Foreign Minister confirmed that 68 Bangladeshi nationals with undocumented status were repatriated via a Bangladeshi military aircraft.
The repatriation of the undocumented foreign labourers living in Maldives is a part of a joint operation of to the foreign ministry with the Ministry of Economic Development.
Bangladeshi nationals make up the majority of the expatriate population in Maldives, which numbers at over 144,600, out of which authorities estimate some 63,000 to be undocumented.
In a move to regularise undocumented migrant workers, Maldives government in 2019 ran a six-month re-registration program. In February 2020, the economic development ministry revealed that 32,000 migrant workers were regularized under this initiative.
Other such efforts include imposing a temporary one-year ban on contracting Bangladeshi labourers, in effect from September 2019.
Meanwhile, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih on May 5, revealed arrangements were underway to repatriate 1,500 undocumented Bangladeshi workers, after discussions with the Bangladeshi government concerning the rise in Covid-19 infections among the Bangladeshi community in Maldives.
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 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, 667 Bangladeshi nationals have tested for the virus, while a 33-year-old Bangladeshi man have died from the infection. Bangladeshi nationals comprise roughly half of all confirmed cases in the country.
Presently, Maldives records 1,313 confirmed cases of Covid-19 with 1,182 active cases, 127 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.