‘Toxic bomb’ ticks on Maldives rubbish island: AFP

“Descending by plane into the Maldives offers a panoramic view of azure seas and coral-fringed islands, but as the tarmac nears, billowing smoke in the middle distance reveals an environmental calamity,” writes the AFP.

“Thilafushi Island, a half-hour boat trip from the capital, is surrounded by the same crystal clear waters and white sand that have made the Indian Ocean archipelago a honeymoon destination for the rich and famous.

But no holidaymaker sets foot here and none could imagine from their plane seats that the rising smoke is the waste from residents and previous visitors being set alight by men like 40-year-old Fusin.

A migrant from Bangladesh, he is one of several dozen employees on “Rubbish Island” — the biggest waste dump in the country where he’s paid $350 a month for 12-hour shifts, seven days a week.

With no safety equipment bar a pair of steel-capped boots, he clambers over a stinking mountain of garbage, eyes streaming and voice choked after four years’ exposure to thick, toxic fumes.

Beneath his feet lie the discards of the cramped capital Male’ and the local tourism industry that has helped turn the collection of more than 1,000 islands into the wealthiest country in South Asia.”

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Immigration head calls for “clean-up” of Thilafushi over crime fears

Controller of Immigration and Emigration Dr Mohamed Ali  has said that a raid on the island of Thilafushi yesterday which uncovered 134 unregistered foreign workers reflects wider fears over criminal operations being conducted on the island.

Dr Ali told Minivan News that the group of foreign workers, mostly Bangladesh nationals, had been uncovered after the Immigration Department had made continued warnings to employers on the island to have their workers “regularised” with the correct papers by the end of August.

Beyond failing to register workers, the immigration controller said the raid reflected wider concerns over addressing potential criminal operations on Thilafushi – popularly referred to in international media as the Maldives’ ‘rubbish island’.

“Right now there are just so many issues to be addressed on Thilafushi,” he claimed. “We need to clean it up in all aspects. We believe there are a number of illegal operations there.”

According to the immigration department, these alleged activities are thought to include the  shipping of illegal goods and drugs.

Dr Ali added that the expatriate workers found without correct papers were presently being kept for processing in Male’.

“At present they’re employers are working to take them back and have them processed,” he said.

The immigration controller did not have the exact figures on the number of workers presently being kept at a centre in Male’ while their papers were undergoing processing.

“These workers are not being detained, they are being kept comfortably and fed while processing is going on,” he added.

The High Commissioner of Bangladesh, Rear Admiral Abu Saeed Mohamed Abdul Awal, said he had been aware of the raid that had taken place yesterday by the Department of Immigration and Emmigration, but was awaiting for information on the matter at the time of press.

Back in May, 47 Bangladeshi nationals working for a local security were seized by the Department of Immigration as part of a wider crackdown on illeal immigrants after being found to have been incorrectly registered in the country.

Police Spokesperson Sub-Inspector Hassan Haneef confirmed that it had worked with the Department of Immigration and Emmigration on the raid as part of a joint operation.

Haneef added that this joint operation with immigration officials would be continuing in the future, but would not be focused solely on Thilafushi

Back in July, the Maldives was included on the US State Department’s Tier Two Watch List for Human Trafficking for a third year in a row.