Maldives must ensure it does not become hub for people smuggling: Defence minister

With additional reporting by Lucy Lovell

The Maldives should take precautionary steps to ensure that it does not become a hub for people smuggling, Minister of Defence and National Security Mohamed Nazim said on Sunday.

“This smuggling of people is done by garnering a lot of financial aid. People smuggling has become a huge business globally.”

“We must do all necessary to inhibit people smuggling through the Maldives,” said the minister.

Despite the recent introduction of legislation to address the country’s longstanding problems with human trafficking, doubts persist over implementation, as well as the law’s capacity to prosecute human smuggling – different to trafficking in that individuals give a measure of consent to be transported illegally.

Speaking at the inauguration of a workshop titled ‘Capacity Building for Front line Investigation and Border Control Officers to Combat People Smuggling’ – which started in Kurumba Island Resort on Sunday – Nazim spoke of the important role that can be played by immigration and police officers to prevent people smuggling.

He further stated that the immigration cell established at the Immigration Department needs to further develop and function more strongly in the future.

“We in the Maldives do not want anyone to use our borders to illegally cross into other countries. Even quite recently, we came across some Syrians who used the Maldives as an intermediary to travel onto another country.”

“We must ensure that the Maldivian border is one which is safe and protected, and that people are aware of this security,” added Nazim during the event organised by the International Organisation for Migration, and the Department of Immigration and Emigration.

Smuggling concerns

The defence minister – also in charge of the immigration department – announced plans to apprehend and deport all undocumented foreign workers from the capital Malé within four months.

Local NGO Transparency Maldives recently estimated that the number of migrant workers in the country could number as many as 200,000 – a figure that amounts to two thirds of the country’s population.

The Maldives’ first anti trafficking legislation was ratified by President Abdulla Yameen in December last year, receiving a mixed responses from the Human Rights Commission Maldives (HRCM).

Assistant Controller Ali Ashraf from the HRCM described the new legislation at the time as “an excellent piece of work”, though he noted that the failure to include the category of smuggling in the act made it very likely that offenders would be able to evade prosecution.

“The definition of trafficking can be twisted so easily,” warned Ashraf.

The HRCM has also raised the issue of Syrian refugees – mentioned by the defence minister today – using the Maldives as a transit point back in November 2013.

A leaked document from the immigration department, obtained by Minivan News last year, that the Maldives status as a tourist hub granting free visas upon arrival to over one million tourists a year, made it increasingly attractive as a transit destination

Previous case studies on several refugees appeared to reveal inconsistencies with the immigration department’s decisions, with similar refugee cases receiving different verdicts from Maldivian authorities.

HRCM member Jeehan Mahmood argued that the government’s inconsistencies resulted in discriminatory practices inappropriate to a country aspiring to uphold its human rights obligations.


Government plans massive operation to deport undocumented workers

The government today announced a massive operation to detain and deport undocumented workers.

“Within three to four months the whole Malé will be cleaned,” said the Minister of Defence and National Security Mohamed Nazim – also in charge of the Immigration Department.

“They can’t live in Malé. When I say this, it will happen – I am not just saying it.”

Nazim told media the government is planning a “very strong operation” to reduce the number of undocumented migrant workers in Maldives “for the safety and security of everyone and for the economy”.

He said the operation would be carried out jointly by Maldives National Defence Force, the Maldives Police Service, the Department of Immigration and Emigration, and other relevant institutions.

Those detained in the operation are to be be deported using the money deposited by their employers when they were recruited.

A special facility has now been assigned to keep those who will be detained in the operation. Local councils will implement the operation in the atolls.

Nazim said the operation will begin before Ramazan and will target all undocumented workers – from those at the local market, to those wiping motorcycles.

Those deported will have to wait 5 to 10 years before being allowed to enter Maldives again, as opposed to those recently deported through a special voluntary repatriation program, who have the option to return in six months.

The defense minister noted that the capacity of institutions will be considered when carrying out the operation, as the government “does not want to detain so many people and take care of them”.

Actions such as imposing fines and restricting quotas will be taken against those who employ such workers, while a public awareness programme will be carried out simultaneously.

Limiting quotas for agencies

Nazim today announced that, within the year, the recruitment of foreign workers will be limited only to employment agencies.

In this regard, quotas – the maximum number of foreign nationals that can be employed by a single employer – will be issued only through employment agencies.

“Instead of individuals requesting for a quota, they should go through [recruitment] agencies to get the quota. They should apply to agencies and do it through those agencies,” he said, noting that individuals can still employ foreign workers, but can also only do so through agencies.

Nazim said the main reason for the change is the current difficulty in holding individuals accountable.

When the government allowed individuals to recruit foreign employees directly, in 2009, the Association for Employment Agencies expressed concern that the move would increase the number of undocumented workers.

In addition to the approximately 110,000 migrant workers employed in the Maldives, the number of undocumented workers have been estimated to be as high as 44,000. Many workers live at congested labor quarters owned by locals.

Authorities reported a good response to the recent voluntary repatriation scheme, with over 4,000 workers reported to have left the Maldives between December and the end of March.

Meanwhile, the Maldives Inland Revenue Authority (MIRA) today announced that, starting from Sunday, immigration related payments such as the visa fee and fines will be collected from the newly established ‘Huravee Collection Center’ on the third floor of the Huravee Building.

Commissioner General of MIRA, Yazeed Mohamed said that similar collection centers will be established around the country to make such payments easier. And said that the authority is working to establish a tax collection center in Hulhumale as well.


High Commission in Dhaka closes due to “unprecedented fiscal problems”

The Maldives High Commission in Bangladesh has closed its operations, with acting high commissioner Ahmed Adil reportedly citing “unprecedented fiscal problems”.

“Even the foreign ministry’s budget has been slashed by 40 percent,” he told the Bangladeshi media. “It’s a very big cut.”

Adil stated that despite the closure, the excellent bilateral relations Maldives and Bangladesh would continue, and that an alternative arrangement would be sought to bridge the absence of a mission in Dhaka.

An unnamed source from the commission also told the Dhaka Tribune that severe budgetary constraints had prompted the shutdown, suggesting that diplomatic services would continue to be provided from New Delhi.

In a comment piece produced earlier this week, former Bangladeshi High Commissioner to the Maldives Professor Selina Mohsin described the decision as a “wrong move”.

“Diplomatic continuity is a necessity and reciprocity is essential to foster good relations with a friendly Saarc state. But countries are not always ruled by rational consideration of advantages, but often by unthinking foolhardiness.

High Commissioner between 2008 and 2010, Mohsin argued that the Dhaka mission played an important role in strengthening the bond between the island nation and Bangladesh.

“Bangladesh has over 70,000 migrant workers in the Maldives – more than from India or Sri Lanka. They face dubious recruitment procedures, their passports are seized by unscrupulous brokers on arrival, and often wages are withheld,” she argued.

Minivan News was awaiting a press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which failed to be published at the time of press.

A World Bank report produced late last year suggested that excessive state expenditure risked derailing the economy. Over seventy percent of the current budget is allocated for recurrent expenditure.

Similarly, the departing MMA governor urged the government to reduce expenditure. After proposing a record MVR17.95 billion budget in December last year – later passed – the MMA’s published response called for cuts that included a reduction in state apparatus to reflect the country’s size and income.

The Bangladeshi High Commission, opened in 2008, was one of the Maldives’ 13 overseas diplomatic missions. The country currently has embassies in China, Saudi Arabia, and Japan, with high commissions in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.

The country also has permanent missions representing the country in Brussels, Geneva, and New York.

Estimates of migrant workers currently in the Maldives range from 70,000 to as high as 110,000 with undocumented workers estimated to be as high as 44,000.

Employment trafficking scams and fraudulent recruitment it is nearly impossible to reach a conclusive number.

The Department of Immigration and Emigration recently revealed that, in an effort to curb the numbers of illegal workers, it is strengthening action taken against those who employ or provide housing for undocumented migrant individuals.

It was also revealed that a voluntary repatriation scheme for undocumented workers had seen 4,400 workers out of 5,134 that registered for the programme leaving the Maldives since December.


Immigration department boosts efforts to curb undocumented workers

The Department of Immigration and Emigration has said that it is strengthening action taken against those who employ or provide housing for undocumented migrant workers.

Deputy CEO of Immigration Abdulla Munaz said the department is strengthening the implementation of existing regulations because the provision of employment and shelter is a major cause is rising numbers of undocumented workers in the country.

“We will take whatever action is necessary. The actions [to be taken] are very clear in the existing laws. The immigration act allows to fine anyone that employs or provide accommodation for immigrants residing in the Maldives unlawfully,” said Munaz.

According to the department, employers will be fined between MVR15,000 and MRV50,000 if found to be unlawfully employing or housing an immigrant, while the removal of the right to employ foreign workers can result from employing even a single undocumented worker.

Rather than blacklisting companies, the department now targets employers engaged in the unlawful employment of foreign workers, preventing them from employing any migrant worker under their name.

In addition to the approximately 110,000 migrant workers employed in the Maldives, the number of undocumented workers have been estimated to be as high as 44,000. Many workers live at congested labor quarters owned by locals.

While some of these workers are engaged in manual labor, others are employed officially by companies and by individuals working for various industries such agriculture, construction, and fisheries – an industry in which foreign workers are not allowed.

As per immigration laws and regulations, foreign employees can only do the type of work for which the visa is issued and only for the employers with whom they are registered.

Voluntary repatriation program

Munaz said that the intention of stricter regulation is not take action against as many people, but to resolve the issue.

He described the voluntary repatriation programme announced last December as an opportunity for employers to get things right, as the department understands how widespread the employment of such workers are in the country.

The programme – offering leniency for undocumented migrant workers who wish to return to their home countries voluntarily on their own expenses – received huge support, according to the department.

By last week, approximately 4,400 workers out of 5,134 that registered for the programme had left the Maldives. Under the scheme, they will be allowed to return within six months of departure. According to immigration, on average 50 of these workers are now leaving Maldives daily.

“The reason we started that programme is because we noticed that a lot of foreign workers who are staying in Maldives unlawfully are forced to do so. They are not doing it intentionally, but circumstances they faced lead them to be in that situation,” explained Munaz.

“If we are to investigate each and every case to see if it was intentional or not, it would take a lot of time to achieve the primary objective of reducing the number of undocumented workers,” he continued.

Some workers are recruited unlawfully at the airport before they even meet the actual employer by promising higher wages and providing false information, said Munaz.

“These people don’t have documents and they actually want to leave. But they can’t. They don’t have their documents. So we helped them through their consulates to create a one way travel document so they could leave. We received a good cooperation from all embassies.”

Munaz said cases identified as human trafficking are forwarded to the police, and cases where there are labour right violations such as non-payment of wages are forwarded to the labour relations authority for further investigation.

“Sometimes employers let their foreign employees go, stop paying them wages, and ask them to go out and seek work on their own. In such cases the employees will not have any place to go, they may not have much savings.”

“Recently there was a case where a group of migrant workers were taken from Malé to another island to work, and after completing the work the employers went to another island and just left them there,” said Munaz.

Workers in such situations who voluntarily approach the department are provided with accommodation at the ‘Bidheysee Hiyaa’ safe house until their travel arrangements are made from the employer’s deposit at the department.

Those who are caught by the department are held at the Immigration Removal Center at Hulhumalé Prison until they are deported.

The People’s Majlis passed the country’s first anti-trafficking legislation last December following international criticism of the Maldives’ moves to prevent the practice.


“Good response” to voluntary repatriation program

On average one hundred workers are registering for the Department of Immigration and Emigration’s ongoing voluntary repatriation program for undocumented migrant workers each day, the department has said.

Speaking to Minivan News today, Deputy CEO of of the department Abdulla Munaz said although response had been low initially, more workers are registering now with more than 250 workers requesting for registration by Monday afternoon.

The voluntary repatriation program was designed to provide an opportunity for undocumented migrant workers to return to Maldives within six months and arrange their travel documents with ease.

If undocumented workers are deported they would not be allowed to return for ten years.

The program started on 23 December and will continue till 31 December 2013, and will reopen from 5 – 6 January 2014. Registration will go on from 0900hrs – 1700hrs on these days at Dharumavantha School, Male’.

Workers will be sent back to their countries within two days of registration. Repatriation under this program is voluntary and on the workers’ own expense. The government expects to repatriate between 5,000 – 10,000 workers.

Munaz said there are some undocumented workers who are in that situation because they were mistreated by local employers, and the department will start more rigorous monitoring and taking action against locals who employ and harbor undocumented workers.

“Our goal is not to take action against as many people, but this is a national issue and we will do whatever it takes to tackle this.” Munaz said.

He said that starting from January 2014, action will be taken against employers who are reported for not paying salaries for two consecutive months.

Instead of blacklisting agencies for malpractices, the department will start to ban the person responsible for such activity from future recruitment and will work with the Labor Relations Authority and Maldives Police Service to take all necessary action against such individuals.

The Immigration Act empowers the department to fine anyone who contravenes the act with an amount not exceeding MVR 50,000/- and the Controller of Immigration is given the authority of with \holding such a person’s passport.

Under the “Work Visa Regulation” the Controller of Immigration and Emigration has the authority to deport all migrant workers employed by an employer who contravenes the regulation. And with the Anti Human Trafficking Act coming to power, agencies and employers involved in acts of trafficking, exploitation and debt bondage will face criminal charges.

A connection between increasing number of undocumented migrant workers have been suggested by the Human Right Commission of the Maldives and the US State Department who have put Maldives on their Tier Two Watch List for Human Trafficking for the fourth consecutive time this year.

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives earlier this year expressed concern over a mass repatriation program, saying that the state should provide such workers with their due wages and compensation before sending them off. A Labor Relations Authority and a Employment Tribunal was established under the Employment Act created to address such issues.


Voluntary repatriation program announced for undocumented workers

The Department of Immigration and Emigration has announced a special repatriation program offering leniency for undocumented migrant workers who wish to return to their home countries voluntarily on their own expenses.

The program is set to begin tomorrow (December 23) and will allow migrant workers to return to the Maldives within six months of departure. However, if workers are deported, they are not allowed to come back to the Maldives for ten years.

According to the Immigration department, the purpose of the new program is to register and regulate undocumented migrant workers.

The likelihood of repatriated workers returning to the Maldives to work illegally will be slim due to increased monitoring, Deputy CEO of Immigration Abdulla Munaz told local newspaper Haveeru

Munaz said that, even if a thousand workers are sent off each month, it would take the government 35 months to send off all undocumented workers.

While there is no  official data available on undocumented migrant workers, estimates have put it as high as 44,000.

The current program’s target is to repatriate 5,000 – 10,000 workers.

Registration will take place from 23 – 31 December 2013 and 5- 6 January 2014, on all working days between 0900hrs – 1700 hrs at Dharumavantha School, Male’. Workers are to be sent home within two days of registration.

On December 5, Immigration Controller Hassan Ali announced that the institution’s biggest focus in the first 100 days of Yameen’s government would be to address the issue of illegal immigrants.

The Maldives has been on the US State Department’s Tier Two Watch List for Human Trafficking for four consecutive years. The US says the Maldives is a destination country for human trafficking, including sex trafficking, forced labor and debt bondage.

The Immigration department’s 100 day plan includes offering illegal immigrants a chance to change employees, and increasing the number of illegal immigrants who will be deported in 2014.

The immigration controller also revealed plans to re-register undocumented workers, establish an online system of obtaining work visas from Kulhudhuhfushi Island in northern Maldives and forming a single office to deal with all work related to migrant workers.

The Human Rights Commission of the Maldives has previously expressed concern over a mass repatriation program this year. The commission said the state should provide such workers with their due wages and compensation before sending them off.


Government continues plans for first 100 days

Twenty-six days into the administration of President Abdulla Yameen, state institutions have been unveiling plans to commence or to resume projects within a 100 day period of the government’s November 17 inauguration.

A number of ‘roadmaps’ have emerged in the transport, health, and immigration. Similar lists of projects have also been devised for customs, the police, and the military.

Transport and communication

On December 8, the Transport and Communication Ministry revealed that it would finish drafting plans and begin the groundwork within a 100 days to develop the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) to be able to cater to 5 million passengers.

Plans were also made to introduce the nighttime landing of flights in Thimarafushi and Fuvahmulah airports within this period.

In the field of land transportation, the ministry pledged to improve local ports, connect islands via seaplane transport and to improve ferry services between atolls.

There are further plans to establish a broadband internet policy and to provide fast-speed internet to all inhabited islands. Besides this, the plan also includes the introducing number portability between the two telecom service providers currently available in the country.

Transport Minister Ameen Ibrahim said that the government’s object was to make the Maldives the most advanced among the SAARC countries in the field of communication.

The government has also announced its intention to build a bridge between Hulhule’ – the airport island- and capital Male’, and have requested proposals from interested companies.


Just a week after the new administration was established, Vice President Dr Mohamed Jameel Ahmed announced that the government had begun to solve issues in providing health services to the people.

Visiting the sole state-owned hospital – IGMH – in capital city Malé on November 24, Jameel announced that the government would begin fulfilling its health policies “as soon as we get the budget for it”, adding that this would include revamping the Aasandha insurance scheme and training nurses and doctors.

Early in December, prior to the appointment of a health minister, President’s Office Minister Abdulla Ameen announced that chemotherapy treatment for cancer patients would be introduced within the first one hundred days.

Stating that the lack of the service forced many Maldivians to live abroad for medical purposes, Ameen said that the introduction of chemotherapy facilities in the country was crucial. He added that screening to diagnose cervical cancer would also be introduced -both under a government insurance scheme.

Echoing Ameen’s assurances of fast development to IGMH, Health Minister Mariyam Shakeela said at a press conference held today that the government was drafting a policy to “bring major development to IGMH in a very short period of time to an extent never before seen”.

She said that this included a complete renewal of the management figures at the hospital.

The minister further revealed that the government had decided to transfer specialist doctors to the atolls for a period of time which would be allocated by the ministry.

Shakeela stated that funds for development are included in the budget, and that the government is also seeking aid from international donors for some of the projects. She hoped that such developments would  lead to “decreasing the burden on Aasandha”.

Shakeela promised that the full 100 day programme would be revealed next week.


Immigration Controller Hassan Ali announced on December 5 that the institution’s biggest focus in the first 100 days of Yameen’s government would be to control the issue of illegal immigrants.

The plan itself includes work to offer illegal immigrants a chance to change employees, and increasing the number of illegal immigrants who will be deported in 2014.

The immigration controller also revealed plans to establish an online system of obtaining work visas from Kulhudhuhfushi, establishing a single office to deal with all migrant related work, and a mechanism where e-passports can be issued from two areas of the country.

Customs, Police and Military

The Maldives Police Services has also created a roadmap of goals they will work to achieve in the first 100 days of the Yameen administration.

On December 9, police revealed that the foremost goal in this roadmap is to complete investigation of 80 per cent of ongoing cases – the total amount of which was not specified – and to forward them to the Prosecutor General’s office.

Other goals include completion of investigation into small and petty crimes within a 30 day period, pre-emptive identification and intervention in cases of intention to commit crimes, and the setting up of additional security cameras in Male’ and Addu City.

Police will also be working to eradicate sexual abuse of children, and to establish what they have termed ‘be ready camps’ to achieve this goal in two atolls.

Facilitating youth employment by helping to get sea vessel driving licences, increasing women’s employment in the policing field to 50 percent, and the establishment of a juvenile detention centre is also included among the listed aims.

The roadmap also includes internal work like the establishment of a new system to address complaints against police officers, the creation of a police clinic for health support to officers and their families, and the compilation of a four-year strategic plan on professional development of the force.

Police, together with customs, have also initiated programs to tackle the illegal import and abuse of narcotics and serious and organised crimes.

Customs – which has also revealed a roadmap for the same period – have on December 12, expressed concern that budget limitations may prove to be an obstacle in the realisation of their goals.

Commissioner General of Customs Ahmed Mohamed stated that the budget cuts would affect the institution’s reaching of its objectives, including the provision of more convenient online services.

Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF)’s 100 day strategic plan includes the submission of various amendments to relevant laws – including the Armed Forces Act and Narional Security Act – to the parliament, and the establishment of a ‘justice system’ within the force.

The plan further consists of a variety of other projects, including the addition of a helicopter and landing crafts to its fleet, and the establishment of fire stations in the islands of Kahdhoo and Naifaru.

The military intend to lay the foundation for a new eight story building where the current Coast Guard offices are, to conduct additional international training for officers – especially with the Indian Army, to provide medical care at low fees for general citizens at the Senahiya military hospital, and the establishment of a day care centre for the use of officers and families.


Anti-trafficking act greeted with caution by HRCM

The Human Rights Commission of Maldives (HRCM) has welcomed this week’s ratification of the Anti-trafficking act, despite reservations about the legislation itself and the state’s capacity to enforce it.

“It covers many acts of exploitation that will now be considered as offences and it also has penalties in the act for those who commit the crime of human trafficking,” said HRCM member Jeehan Mahmoud.

Earlier this week, the government announced the ratification of the bill, which had been passed in the Majlis on December 3.

Assistant Controller Ali Ashraf has also described the new legislation as “an excellent piece of work”

A President’s Office press release stated that the new legislation clearly defined human trafficking as an offence in the Maldives.

The main objectives of the Anti-Human Trafficking Act were subsequently listed as:

• Preventing trafficking of persons through and across the Maldives

• Establishing the crimes of trafficking in persons and prescribing punishments

• Providing for prosecution of perpetrators of trafficking in persons

• Providing protection and assistance to victims of human trafficking

• Promoting and protecting the human rights of trafficked victims

• Engaging in cooperation with local and international NGOs working against human trafficking

Those found guilty of human trafficking can now face up to 10 years for cases involving adults, which can be extended to up to 15 if children are involved. Accomplices to trafficking can also now receive a seven year sentence.

Both Jeehan and Ashraf, however, maintained reservations regarding the efficacy of the act in the absence of specific definitions of offences and in its failure to include human smuggling.

“We wanted to identify specific acts. In our experience, if specifics are not detailed there is a chance that the offences go without prosecution when they get to the courts,”said Jeehan.

Similarly, Ashraf noted that the failure to include the category of smuggling in the act – different to trafficking in that individuals give a measure of consent to be transported illegally – made it very likely that offenders will be able to evade prosecution.

“The definition of trafficking can be twisted so easily,” warned Ashraf.

Jeehan noted that those smuggled were as vulnerable to exploitation by their handlers as those trafficked.

International pressure

In ratifying the bill, President Yameen has fulfilled one of the recommendations given by the US State Department earlier this year to avoid a downgrade to Tier 3 – the lowest rung on the department’s scale.

Relegation to Tier 3 is reserved for states who are neither meeting the minimum requirements to eliminate trafficking, nor are making concerted efforts to do so. The State Department revealed  in June this year that, despite being spared the downgrade to Tier 3 this year, the country would be ineligible for such a reprieve in 2014.

US diplomat Luis CdeBaca – speaking at the launch of the US’s most recent human trafficking report – said that the guarantee of a downgrade had been introduced to prompt action in countries who had been “getting comfortable being on Tier 2 Watch List, doing a minimum amount.”

Jeehan argued that such international pressure had played a “key role” in paving the way for the new legislation, expressing her belief that the move will be viewed positively by international observers.

The Maldives’ downgrading from the Tier 2 watchlist – where it has remained for four years – could potentially leave it open to non-humanitarian and non-trade international sanctions.

A government-ordered report in 2011 revealed human trafficking to be the Maldives second most lucrative industry after tourism – worth an estimated US$123million a year.

The Maldives expatriate worker population is estimated by some sources to be as high as one third of the population with the majority coming from Bangladesh. Bangladeshi authorities temporarily halted worker migration to the Maldives earlier this year in order to check on worker eligibility.

Under the previous government, the Immigration Department had targeted the return of 10,000 unregistered workers by the end of 2013.

Institution building

Jeehan today noted that much work was still needed to build the capacity of state institutions in order to adequately fight trafficking.

“Very little has been done to build the capacity of state officials to counter human trafficking. One thing definitely needed is to build the capacity of state institutions,” said Jeehan.

The capacity of the country’s border control infrastructure to adequately deal with trafficking has been questioned in recent months, following the decision of the previous government to replace border control system offered by Malaysia’s Nexbis company with the US PISCES system.

During the legal wrangles that dogged the Nexbis deal from its initial agreement, the company’s Vice President suggested that groups backing the country’s lucrative human trafficking industry could be seeking to stymie the introduction of its BCS to undermine national security controls.

Ashraf stated that the capacity to meet the requirements of the new legislation was there, but that a number of amendments would be needed to make it fully workable – including special visas for trafficking victims.

“Implementation of the bill will require a lot of effort and coordination,” he added, revealing that the Department of Immigration, alongside the International Organisation for Migration, would be holding a training session for all immigration officials on December 15 for this purpose.


Government releases MDP MP “Gadhoo” Zahir’s passport

The Department of Immigration has released Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) MP Zahir Adam’s passport today.

The passport was withheld on Friday night at the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) as Zahir attempted to leave the country to get medical treatment.

Immigration Controller Dr Mohamed Ali said Kaafu Atoll Guraidhoo Island had issued an order to withhold the passport, but had ordered its release today.

“We follow the court’s orders. When Guraidhoo court asked us to withhold the passort we did that. When they told us to release the passport, we did that also,” Ali told Minivan News.

In a statement on Saturday, Zahir said he had not been informed of charges against him in any court.

“This is an act to cause trouble for MDP MPs, and to threaten and obstruct MDP’s reform programs,” Zahir said.

Minivan News was unable to reach the Guraidhoo Court at the time of press.

MDP MPs Eva Abdulla and Ali Azim were arrested last week as the party continues demonstrations for elections to expedited after the Supreme Court ordered the police to forcibly halt the second round of presidential elections. The run off had been scheduled for September 28.

Eva was arrested at a protest on Tuesday evening and released after a few hours of detention. Ali Azim was arrested on Sunday last week, and has now been transferred to house arrest.

Meanwhile, the police have said it is investigating MDP MPs Alhan Fahmy, Imthiyaz Fahmy, Mohamed Rasheed (Bonda) and ‘Reeko’ Moosa Manik for contempt of court and threatening the police, judges and their families.

MDP MPs Abdulla Jabir and Hamid Abdul Gafoor are currently standing trial on suspicion of possessing drugs and alcohol.