Police holding discussions to repatriating Iranian fishermen

Police have announced that they are holding discussions on the matter of repatriating 14 Iranians on a fishing boat found in Maldivian seas.

The boat was discovered near the island of Thimarafushi in Thaa Atoll on June 6, after having been lost at sea for two months.

Police revealed that the boat and its crew are now in the island of Madifushi in Thaa Atoll.


MNDF divers retrieve body of missing Korean tourist

Police have confirmed that the body of a Korean tourist reported missing yesterday (December 17) from Meedhuhparu resort in Raa Atoll has been discovered today in a joint operation conducted with staff at the property and a Maldives National Defence Force (MNDF) dive team.

Authorities have said that the body of the deceased, identified as 32 year-old Korean national Dohwan Oh, has been transported to Male’ and is now awaiting repatriation.

In a statement issued today, the Maldives Police Service has said that the deceased was discovered 20 metres underwater in the area where he was first reported missing following a snorkelling excursion with his wife.

Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef could not confirm when exactly the body would be repatriated at the time of press.

Tourist safety

Addressing the growing influx of tourists from Asian destinations coming to the Maldives, Tourism Minister Ahmed Adheeb Abdul Gafoor today pledged in local media to enforce stricter safety measures across the industry to try and cut down potential snorkelling incidents.

Adheeb stated that the industry must evolve and adapt to the changing market geared increasingly towards Asian visitors who were generally not as adept at swimming as tourists from more established markets.  According to the tourism minister, this evolution includes increasing ocean awareness for tourists while monitoring and strengthening existing regulations.

“If such incidents keep repeating it is a major concern. It will adversely affect our tourism. We need to change the services being provided with the market,” Adheeb told local media.

Missing Chinese national

Meanwhile, Police Spokesperson Haneef said today he was unable to comment over whether the case of another tourist who went missing from the Bandos Island Resort and Spa earlier this month – initially suspected to be a snorkelling incident – was presently being treated as a criminal investigation.

Immigration authorities confirmed Saturday (december 15) that a Chinese national allegedly linked to the disappearance of a tourist staying at a Maldives holiday resort had fled the country, defying a court-mandated travel ban issued Wednesday (December 12).

Local media had previously reported that the husband of Chinese tourist Song Yapin,who went missing from the Bandos Island Resort and Spa on December 6, had accused a fellow Chinese national staying at the property of murdering his wife.

Haneef said that as police investigations were ongoing into the incident, no details on the nature of its work could be given at present.

The MNDF confirmed on Saturday that the search to locate the missing Chinese national was continuing.  However, MNDF Spokesperson Colonel Abdul Raheem said that the country’s coastguard had presently ceased sending out dive teams to explore local waters.

“We will not be calling off our operation until the person is found, but we will be amending our operation on a daily basis,” Colonel Raheem said at the time.


Somali castaways in Maldives say “no” to repatriation

Forty Somali castaways under the custody of Maldivian authorities have recently refused to return home despite arrangements that were made for their safe repatriation, Minivan News has learned.

According to a top government official, who spoke to Minivan News on condition of total anonymity, the government had devoted “immeasurable amount of time and effort” over the past three years to safely repatriate several Somali nationals who have been discovered in Maldivian waters in dinghies lost at sea.

Many were found in frail health conditions due to dehydration and malnourishment, and had to undergo long treatments before being transferred to Dhoonidhoo Detention Center, where they were provided temporary refuge until negotiations on repatriation were finalised.

“However, after all their identities were verified, passports and a chartered flight was arranged for their safe transportation, they refused to go back to Somalia,” said the source, who has worked closely with the case.

“The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)’s delegation arrived in Maldives to confirm their preference because no refugee can be repatriated without consent under the international conventions,” he said. “So the delegation asked them one question – Are you willing to go? All of them said ‘no!'” he recalled.

He observed that the Maldives cannot resort to the option of forced repatriation as Somalia is recognised as a unsafe state.

Maldives has not ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention or its 1967 Protocol citing “financial and technical capacity constraints” but the convention prohibits all states, regardless of whether they have acceded it, from returning a “refugee to a territory where his or her life or freedom is threatened”.

“So the project is now a big failure,” he concluded, adding that the Maldives can face “increasing pressures from the international community if it continue with the forced repatriation.”

Minivan News could not get a comment from the foreign ministry at the time of press on how the state intends to move forward in solving the repatriation block.

Authorities have earlier echoed concerns over the increased financial burden to the state in providing shelter to the Somalis, who are said to be now in good health and actively involved in prison-based agricultural projects.

A Maldivian expert on combating human trafficking meanwhile noted in an interview to Minivan News that “if repatriation does not work out, the only legal solution would be for Maldives to sign the international conventions on refugees and Rights of Migrant Workers Families and accept the Somalis as refugees, and provide necessary protection granted under these conventions.”

“The Maldives will be pressured to sign the conventions. But, the question is are we ready to face that? We are already in a crisis with the current 100,000 expatriate population in the country which accounts to one third of the Malidives population. If these conventions are passed, it means, the expat population will be doubled or tripled,” he warned. “Are Maldivians willing to become a minority in their own country?” he asked.