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Virus traps poor foreign workers in deserted Maldives

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Tens of thousands of impoverished foreign labourers have been left stranded and ostracised in one of the world’s most densely packed cities as the tourist paradise of the Maldives battles coronavirus.

The turquoise waters and pristine beaches that draw honeymoon couples from around the world have been empty for weeks since a government order to close all resorts. That has left an army of migrant workers jobless.

The Maldives, usually a tourist paradise, has been left deserted of holidaymakers by the virus outbreak PHOTO: AFP/ IBRAHIM FAID

Like Singapore, which recorded a large number of coronavirus cases among migrants living in tightly-packed dorms, the Maldives is heavily dependent on foreign labour.

About half of the 150,000 people in the two square kilometres that make up the capital, Male, are workers from Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka living in teeming alleys that are a haven for the virus.

“There is huge uncertainty and panic,” said Zakir Hossain, 39, who had worked in a Male restaurant until March’s shutdown.

He said he has not been paid for more than two months.

“We are worried about the disease. All the Bangladeshi workers live in congested conditions,” he said.

Like many migrants — who share rooms and even beds between shifts — Hossain lives in a single room on a backstreet with four other Bangladeshis.

Outside, security forces stop the labourers going out on the streets.

Authorities acknowledge conditions in Male for foreign workers are poor, and say they are moving thousands into better housing out of the capital.

But opposition politicians have criticised the plans, labelling the treatment of such workers as “inhuman”.

Family fears

The Maldives has recorded nearly 1,400 coronavirus infections among a population of 340,000, a much higher ratio than neighbouring Sri Lanka with 22 million people.

Some experts have warned the Maldives risks thousands more cases unless action is taken. Authorities say the infection spreads three times faster in migrant communities than in the local population.

Fears are growing for the health and welfare of these foreign workers, who are often brought in to clear refuse, clean dishes and do other essential jobs that locals reject.

Four coronavirus deaths have been reported so far, including one Bangladeshi, but rumours that hundreds of foreigners have the virus have compounded concerns among migrants.

Many are also worried about their families back in Bangladesh, also in the grip of a pandemic lockdown amid rising deaths.

“We need money to survive. We need our work,” said Hossain, who managed to send about 80 per cent of his $180 a month wage back to his wife and four children before the outbreak.

But others were not so fortunate. Anwar Hosain, a 42-year-old Bangladeshi carpenter and father of five, said he was owed about $1,800 by his employers.

“My wife calls me every day and cries. What can I do?”

What next?

The government has moved 3,000 foreign workers to a temporary shelter on the industrial island of Gulhi Falhu outside Male.

Workers from Bangladesh gather in an alleyway in Male, capital of the Maldives. PHOTO: AFP/ AHMED SHURAU

Thousands more are to follow but the main opposition Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has described the facilities as prisons. Labourers are barely allowed out and their rooms do not even have fans in the peak summer heat, when temperatures climb above 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit).

“The treatment of these expatriates, mostly Bangladeshi nationals, is inhuman,” PPM spokesman Mohamed Hussain Shareef told AFP.

Government spokesman Mabrook Azeez said authorities had built the housing in a bid to ease overcrowding in Male.

“This is not the condition we want our labourers to live in,” he told AFP.

Roughly a thousand Bangladeshis staying illegally in the Maldives have been repatriated, minister for foreign affairs Abdullah Shahid said on Sunday. India has taken back 4,000 people who lost their jobs.

Those left are increasingly despondent.

“I heard that if a Bangladeshi worker dies here, they don’t send his body back and he is buried here. I am worried what will happen if I die,” said Hossain.

Reporting and photos: AFP

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Discover ultimate privacy at Nika Maldives

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Imagine a place where the world fades away, leaving you with nothing but the gentle sound of waves and the soft touch of sand beneath your feet. A place where privacy is not just a promise, but a guarantee. Welcome to Nika island Resort & Spa, Maldives, the only resort that offers private beaches for an unparalleled experience of seclusion and tranquility.

At Nika, your very own private beach awaits. Picture yourself enjoying a personalised BBQ under the stars or designing your own destination dining experience, tailored to your every desire. Whether it’s a romantic dinner for two or a family feast, the possibilities are endless.

John Miller, a recent guest at Nika, shares his unforgettable experience: “Staying at Nika’s private beach villa was the ultimate privacy I’ve ever experienced. Born in London, I’ve never known such seclusion in my entire life. The resort is lush with vegetation, and the fauna and flora are simply amazing. It’s a hidden gem in the middle of the Indian Ocean. The local stories and the museum displays are fascinating.”

But the allure of Nika doesn’t end there. The resort’s dive centre offers exceptional dive courses, taking you to spectacular dive sites that reveal the breathtaking underwater world. Whether you’re a seasoned diver or a beginner, the wonders beneath the surface will leave you in awe.

After a day of exploration, indulge in the Lotus Spa at Nika. Offering a range of excellent massages, from traditional local techniques to various modern varieties, the spa promises to rejuvenate your body and soul.

Nika is a small resort, yet it is brimming with entertainment and activities. From water sports to cultural experiences, there’s something for everyone. It’s a sanctuary where you can ground yourself, reconnect with nature, and discover a level of privacy that is truly extraordinary.

Escape to Nika and hide away at your secret beach. Here, the ultimate privacy and relaxation await.

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Unwind and Explore: Hilton Maldives Amingiri Resort & Spa Invites Families to a Rejuvenating Summer Escape

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Hilton Maldives Amingiri Resort & Spa, an all-pool villa haven nestled amidst the breathtaking natural seascapes of the Indian Ocean, invites families to embrace the joy of relaxation and the spirit of adventure this summer with a slew of experiences designed to inspire playful discoveries and foster tranquil reconnections with the mind and body.

Fun for All Ages

Budding adventurers and creative little spirits alike can discover new adventures at Krakengiri Kids’ Club, one of the largest kids’ clubs in the Maldives. Led by a multilingual team of certified childcare professionals, young guests can engage in an exciting array of daily activities that combine learning and play.

Upstairs, Re:Fuel, a rooftop lounge for teens, hosts engaging milkshake-making workshops and fun family movie nights under the starry Maldivian sky.

In June, the resort offers a Holiday Camp for teens, who can personalize their wellness experiences as follows:

  • Pick up new sports such as tennis, pickleball, and badminton on the multi-purpose court with the hotel’s resident Sports Animator
  • Work out with a personal trainer at the fitness center
  • Try aerial yoga for beginners, yoga for better sleep, breathwork, and meditation with the resident yoga practitioner
  • Enjoy a restorative massage in the overwater treatment villas of Amingiri Spa.

The experience is available at USD 150++ per person for a combination of any two 30-minute sessions.

Restful Retreats

Amingiri Spa introduces Water Connect, a private in-villa pool experience guided by a certified water shiatsu specialist. The gentle movements and targeted massage techniques melt away tension and create a deeply relaxing sensation akin to being cocooned in the womb. The serene escape is available between 4:00 pm to 5:30 pm at USD 150++ for 30 minutes.

Starting in June, guests can indulge in a brand-new Sleep Wellness menu designed to ease the mind and body into a state of deep and rejuvenating slumber. Guests can choose to unwind with a calming signature massage on the spa’s Skye Deck, bask in the timeless glow of an evening hammam ritual in the modern hammam room, or embrace tranquility with an in-villa session incorporating guided meditation, yoga, and breathwork.

Exclusive Offer

Guests who stay a minimum of four nights enjoy the added value of a half board meal plan and complimentary shared roundtrip speedboat transfers with Maldivian Bliss. This offer is available for stays through to December 20, 2024.

From May through to September 30, 2024, children stay and dine free: parents staying with two young children ages 11 years and below in an Overwater Suite with Pool and any of the Two-Bedroom Beach and Overwater Villas will also enjoy the half board meal plan and complimentary shared roundtrip speedboat transfers when booking Maldivian Bliss. Hilton Honors members enjoy full points for their stay. Terms and conditions apply.

Hilton Maldives Amingiri Resort & Spa is part of Hilton Honors®, the award-winning guest-loyalty program for Hilton’s 22 distinct hotel brands. Members who book directly on the hotel’s website will have access to instant benefits, including a flexible payment slider that allows members to choose nearly any combination of points and money to book a stay, an exclusive member discount, free standard Wi-Fi and the Hilton Honors app.

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Maldives Madridistas: Patina Maldives, Fari Islands Nets Exclusive Football Camp Partnership with the Real Madrid Foundation

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Younger guests at Patina Maldives, Fari Islands can embrace new patterns of play this summer at an exclusive, Maldives-first Real Madrid Foundation football camp. From 4 July – 12 August, a youth coach will lead a comprehensive Real Madrid Foundation programme of daily soccer sessions for ages 5-9yrs, 10-14yrs, and 15-17yrs. The coach will be joined by an elite player ambassador from UEFA’s all-time no. 1 ranked football club toward the end of the programme.

This summer’s inaugural Patina Maldives x Real Madrid CF Foundation football camp is the first edition in an ongoing partnership, with additional future football camp dates to be confirmed. Led by a licensed Real Madrid Foundation coach, sessions will focus on developing each participant both individually and as part of the group, in order to ‘Play The Real Way’ – the training methodology that combines play, as well as sports values.

Sessions will take place on a new, purpose-built 6 a side astroturf pitch located near the Fari Marina Village at Patina Maldives.

All participants will receive an official camp football camp shirt, shorts, socks, drawstring bag, sweatbands, and cap; while those completing a minimum of four days’ coaching will also be presented with a Real Madrid Foundation participation certificate.

Real Madrid Foundation football clinics at Patina Maldives, Fari Islands are priced at USD195++ per child per session for guests of the resort. Bookings are also open to guests from neighbouring resorts, from USD250++ per child per session.

Rates at Patina Maldives, Fari Islands start from USD2,054 (approx. GBP1,620) per night based on two adults sharing a One Bedroom Pool Villa including daily breakfast, complimentary Guest Benefits, tax, and service. Terms and conditions apply.

For more information and reservations, please visit https://patinahotels.com/maldives or contact reservations.maldives@patinahotels.com. For more information on Pathways, please see here.

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