Amidst ongoing changes scheduled over the next few years at Male’ International Airport, authorities at the travel hub have introduced a new Forensic Document Laboratory they hope can step up detection of fake passports and other illegal documentation used to enter the the country.
As part of plans to strengthen border controls to the country, a source at the immigration department confirmed to Minivan News that the laboratory was now in place at the airport, but could not give any specifics on when it came into operation.
However, citing Immigration Controller, Sheik Ilyas Hussain Ibrahim, Haveeru yesterday reported that the system has already helped lead to the arrest of four Iraqi nationals that had allegedly tried to enter the country under forged passports following its introduction earlier this month.
The Immigration Department was unavailable for comment at time of going to press.
The lab system, which has been set up in collaboration with Australian experts, was unveiled late last month by the Maldives’ Department of Immigration and Emigration as the first technology of its kind to be used in the Maldives.
Ibrahim said during this unveiling back in October the issue of immigration within the secluded atolls of the Maldives has vitally needed addressing in order to better combat potential trafficking and people smuggling.
The new laboratory is seen as an important new tool in reducing such illegal border activities and was backed by a special training three day training session at male’s Holiday Inn. According to an immigration department statement, the training was intended to bring Immigration officers within the country further in line with both local and international security standards. Adoption of the system comes amidst growing concerns about the country’s ability to handle border control as well as the prevention of human trafficking.
Back in August, Minivan News reported how the exploitation of foreign workers is potentially rivaling the country’s fishing sector as the second most prolific source of income after tourism.
The claims, which were based on conservative estimates of Bangladeshi workers turning up at their respective commission in Male’ upon being abandoned upon arrival at the country’s main airport, came from experienced diplomat, Professor Selina Mohsin.
Mohsin, formerly Bangladeshi High Commissioner to the Maldives before finishing her assignment in July, stated that about 40 nationals would turn up every day at the Commission without the work many had been promised by certain employment brokers and working with Maldivian partners.
Most of the stranded workers are thought to have been recruited in rural areas of Bangladesh by local brokers, who would work alongside a Maldivian counterpart.
“The Bangladeshi counterpart charges the worker a minimum of US$2000, but it goes up to $US4000. This money is collected by the counterpart and divided: typically three quarters to Maldivian broker and one quarter to the Bangladeshi counterpart,” Professor Mohsin explained, prior to her departure.
In its 2010 Human Trafficking report – published less than a month after the Maldives was given a seat on the UN Human Rights Council – the State Department estimated that half the Bangladeshis in the Maldives had arrived illegally “and most of these workers are probably victims of trafficking”.