‘Migrant workers keep out’: A day at Rasrani park

‘Migrant workers keep out’: A day at Rasrani park
September 05 18:47 2017

By Fathmath Isha and Hassan Moosa

The asphalt path to Rasrani Bageecha was left damp by the afternoon rain as families trudged across puddles to the newly opened park, drawn by greenery and open space ensconced from Malé’s heavy traffic.

Thousands have visited Sultan Park since its reopening late August but one group of residents of the densely-packed capital is conspicuously absent. As we stand by the new stainless steel fountain at the entrance, we soon see migrant workers backing away at the approach of uniformed policemen.

A sign in English atop a small stone structure shows ticket prices for foreigners above 18 years of age. Non-Maldivians must pay an entrance fee of MVR75 (US$5) on weekdays and MVR100 (US$7) during the weekend.

The tickets are sold by ‘Rasrani Guides’ in turquoise shirts with their names embossed on the back with MHI for Ministry of Housing and Infrastructure. The otherwise peaceful atmosphere of the park is periodically broken by the guides chasing after migrant workers wandering in from back entrances.

The decision to charge a fee from expatriates had drawn outrage on social media. It is discriminatory and amounts to segregation as it was clearly intended to keep out workers, rights groups contended.

Before it was closed down, Sultan Park was a haven for hundreds of expatriate men and women to gather on Fridays – the only free day for most of the 130,000 migrant workers believed to reside in the Maldives, predominantly Bangladeshi and Indian men working in the construction and tourism sectors.

Despite denunciations of racism and xenophobia online, most Maldivians we speak to are not averse to the notion of a locals-only park.

“This is a nice place, very relaxing atmosphere. It pleases me to see only Maldivians here,” says Mohamed, a resort worker visiting the park with his elderly mother.

Mohamed is under no illusion about the purpose of the entrance fee.

“Maybe it could have been made a bit cheaper, like MVR50, even then those labourers wouldn’t come here. That bunch of labourers – not the teachers and doctors – get really worried if they have to pay any money, you know?” he suggests.

We follow two migrant workers who are quietly escorted out of the park by policemen. They tell us they were unaware of the entrance fee. The two Indian men, who have lived in the Maldives for ten years, say they would now have to settle for the local fish market.

“The government wants us to buy tickets, so we should buy tickets. But MVR75 is a bit too much,” one of them says.

“It’s sakaraaiy [not good].”

During two hours in the park, we see seven migrant workers led away by the police. The ones we speak to do not know they need a ticket. Asked if the authorities have informed the expatriate community, a policeman says: “It’s been a while. They would know by now.”

A local who has been visiting the park regularly says the situation was worse the previous day.

“The policemen confronted four migrant workers and made them leave in tears. They threatened to withhold their visas if they didn’t leave,” he recalls.

Tourists, however, are treated much more politely by the guides and the police. According to the housing ministry, more than MVR10,000 (US$650) was collected as ticket receipts from 142 foreigners who visited the park in the first five days after the opening.

To our minds, Rasrani Bageecha resembles an Orwellian dystopia with its micromanagement and patriotic songs from the military. At 15-minute intervals, the speakers blare out instructions from the Rasrani Guides to avoid stepping on the grass or touching the fish. The alcoves are meant for children under twelve, they admonish.

Offenders careless enough to violate the rules are sharply told off by the policemen, or worse, yelled at by a short-tempered guide.

We see the guides running around and waving their fists at migrant workers until the policemen take them away. In the rest of the park, children enjoy the freedom of movement they are deprived of in the small living quarters of Malé.

A Maldivian in Pakistani garb is also mistaken for a foreigner and accosted by the police officers. When the misunderstanding is quickly cleared up, we are surprised to discover that he fully supports the restrictions. “[If Bangladeshis could freely enter] it would have been near impossible for a Maldivian to come here,” he gestures toward the crowd of locals.

The Bangladeshis who flock to the central park in Hulhumalé – an artificial island under development as an urban centre near the capital – “makes it impossible for Maldivians to go,” he says. A 40-year-old Maldivian at the park with his daughter echoes the sentiment. “On Friday, this place was full. And if again another group of people comes here it would be suffocating,” he says.

Ahmed Tholal, a senior project coordinator at Transparency Maldives, called the park fee “a very open and blatant endorsement of xenophobia and discrimination” as it was targeted at “a certain group of people from certain countries doing certain kind of jobs”.

“This is the symptoms of xenophobia and how we view migrant workers in Maldives. Earlier this year, we saw that due to a murder in Ihavandhoo, a curfew was set for all the migrant workers on the island,” he said.

“What we see is a dehumanisation of migrant workers, reducing them to less than what they are and refusing to see them as humans.”

Meanwhile, migrant workers who scrambled to leave Malé for its suburb along with hundreds of locals last Friday – which coincided with the beginning of the Eid al-Adha holidays – did not fare any better. In a recurrence of an incident from late July, the state-owned Maldives Transport and Contracting Company reacted to overcrowding by shuffling them into a separate queue outside the terminal and letting Maldivians pass.

“A big crowd of migrant workers was standing outside behind two closed doors. We thought that was the queue and waited next to them,” Mariyam Shiba, a 21-year-old, described the chaotic scenes.

“Then a guy near the entrance of the third door called to us, ‘Maldivians this way!’ The door was being guarded by a second MTCC staff to make sure the workers did not enter.”

The other doors were bolted from the inside and guarded by a group of four MTCC staff, who would let in a few before blocking access and closing the doors again.

The housing ministry was unavailable for comment but Mohamed Nazim, an MTCC executive, said separate queues were part of a “strategy” to manage passenger flow during the Eid holidays.

“We find it a bit more difficult to handle expatriates with the communication gap and all,” he said.

“We just wanted to avoid any problems at all. It was not in any way meant at discriminating between locals and migrant workers.”

Tholal observed that Western tourists are allowed on queues with locals. “But when it’s a Bangladeshi migrant worker it’s a problem,” he said.

“And if the transport company wants to solve the problem of rush hour, then they should set up more counters. In no way should they encourage discrimination.

“Migrant workers contribute to our economy, and even if they did not, MVR100 is a lot even for a Maldivian. For a migrant worker that is like six percent of their income. To have to pay that much to go to a park on weekends. This is against our constitution and the international treaties that Maldives is party to.”

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27 Comments

  1. MissIndia
    September 06, 07:25 #1 MissIndia

    This sort of crass discrimination against migrant workers is totally unacceptable. It is similar to the practices seen in other backward countries such as Saudi Arabia.
    It is about time the Indian government banned the entry of Maldivians on study and medical visas. The visas are issued as a gesture of goodwill only and the revenue generated is insignificant to our booming economy.
    Do us Indians a favour and stop buying indian goods in your supermarkets and pharmacies. That includes foodstuffs, medicines and packaged drinking water.
    On a positive note I am pleased to see there is now a new park for you Male mallus to hang out in. Must make a change from living in an overcrowded dump with frequent power cuts and shortages of drinking water.
    Like living in a can of maldivian sardines?

    Reply to this comment
    • Miss Maldives
      September 07, 18:45 Miss Maldives

      Dear Miss India..
      Thats really a bias comment u left there.. If you are ‘civilized’ and against ‘discrimination’ you wouldnt havr left a comment like this..
      No human should be treated any less..
      I myself am against racism, stereotype, discrimination etc..nonetheless this time i agree with governments decision to take a fare for expatriates.. Rasrani Bageecha is a park built for kids to have a wonderful time.. The benches there are for the parents to sit down while they look after for the kids.. Yes kids are allowed in the park expatriates or tourists and i dont find it as discrimation because the 90% of construction workers or labourers working here are not reside here with a family they do not need to hang out in park which is specially built for kids to run freely in this over crowded Male’.
      Government is not banning entries or charging fees for expats to hang out in other parks or beaches..
      This park does not need adults flowerblooming in benches .. This is not descrimination but a great policy made considering childrens rights…

      Reply to this comment
      • MissIndia
        September 09, 07:03 MissIndia

        Dear Miss Maldives, if the park is intended for children why not allow children and accompanying adults only? Why do you allow Maldivian adults unaccompanied by children but chase the migrant workers away?
        Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Maldives, that are dependent on poor migrant labourers, have a culture of treating these poor people shabbily. I have seen this treatment in the workplace and at airports.
        Maldivians are not God’s gift to mankind. Show these poor people some bloody respect.

        Reply to this comment
      • Ayeaye
        September 09, 11:12 Ayeaye

        Articles these days are so biased. And it really tends to be political. The leading party does something the opposition criticizes. Its a never ending game of criticism.
        Yes. We do have a major issue of stigmatizing certain parts of Asian regions though its not xenophobia per say. Plus, the issuing of tickets is not the BIGG issue in the Maldives. Proper treatment of the expatriates lacks in the Maldivian population. Leaving your workers on the streets or shouting at the workers at a market is okay, one freaking park issuing tickets makes everyone lose their minds.

        https://i.imgur.com/7kZ562z.jpg

        Reply to this comment
    • Dheyvaani
      September 08, 20:11 Dheyvaani

      Hello Miss Gandu
      You started with discrimination and went on to call Maldivians Mallu. Though Mallu is referred to Malayalees, in recent times it is used as a racial slur. And you chose to belittle Maldivians within the context of derogating. And for your kind information, Sardines never live in Maldives waters.
      We the people of Maldives are constantly struggling for better life, we are fighting for our rights and civil liberties.
      With your kinda vile tongue Ache Din Aae na aae, it makes no difference to people like you. And that is why I referred you Miss Gandu.

      Reply to this comment
      • MissIndia
        September 09, 13:05 MissIndia

        Dear Dheyvanni
        You sound like the typical Mallu from Male. Bet you look short, fat and unattractive in your indian made lungi. I couldn’t give a toss for what you think about me.
        I hope the indian government and especially Sushma Swaraj is taking note of how our backward and insignificant neighbours are treating indian citizens. A positive step will be to ban Maldivians from accessing our low cost health and educational sectors. If you have to travel abroad to have bypass surgery or study for an BA in Human Psychology, you are a backward country. OK? Even your best medical facility IGMH is a gift from the people of India, paid for from my taxes. You got it for FREE.
        What about going to Pakistan or Saudi Arabia for higher studies and medical treatment instead? Syria is going to be that much closer too.

        Reply to this comment
        • MRS Indian
          September 09, 14:43 MRS Indian

          Damn, someone is bitter and hateful towards a whole country. You are judgmental and hypocritical. I’m married to the Indian worker my father hired, nobody treats him bad. In fact, all the workers under his care are taken care of. Its up to them anyway if they want to come…I feel bad my husband has to call people like you his fellow Indian. Also, find a new hobby instead of trashing and giving your unnecessary opinions on our issues. Your country isn’t a saint, it’s a corrupt cesspool and needs so much work.

          Reply to this comment
        • DHONDHEENA
          September 09, 14:56 DHONDHEENA

          I cannot stop laughing at how bitter you are. Maldives and India are close countries. I have nothing but respect for Indians, well, except for brain dead morons like you who are obviously envious of our progression and painfully disturbed by the fact most of us are all proud Muslims. I can tell you that here in our Atoll, our ancestors are not ‘Mallu’ lol, Maldives is pretty diverse, specially if you take account of the populations in different atolls. Your limited information about us, judged by your experience in Male’ doesn’t give you any right to make moronic comments about us. best regards, praying Allah will guide you <3

          Reply to this comment
        • Oxon
          September 09, 17:18 Oxon

          The root cause for the debate splitting two groups of ideas here is, charging fees from expatriates. While you are thrashing the Maldivian community as a whole for this initiative, you should be quite surprised to know that there is a significant portion of locals who oppose this concept of charging fees from expats. Also, about the whole mistreatment faced by expatriates, you would be surprised to know that most of our local employers from private sector slander the locals way more than foreigners. And the accounting or financial field accounts to about 80% foreigners. Mainly Indians and Lankans. Construction industry is heavily dominated by Bangladeshis while most of the newly opened resorts have European or such managements that tends to favor hiring foreigners.
          So, to put it short, 99% of the Maldivians have been living through a struggling life (indirectly, perhaps) oppressed by the wealthy 1% of the nation.
          And about this fee being charged from expats. You do know that there are several iconic grounds and venues in several parts of the world that charges a fee from foreigners. Whether charging the fee is a good thing or not, is still a subject up for debate. But I can see how hatred can be the first thing fueled through these deliberations.

          Reply to this comment
      • Miss New Zealand
        September 09, 14:58 Miss New Zealand

        Bravo, Dheyvaani. You just successfully shut that Indian Gandu down.

        Reply to this comment
  2. Vathan
    September 06, 14:11 #2 Vathan

    We have seen in other countries that they take a bigger fee for foreigners too, even in the most civlised countries.

    Reply to this comment
    • eyvathan
      September 06, 16:06 eyvathan

      Just because it is practiced in some other countries, civilized or not doesn’t change the fact of the sheer discrimination. And it’s interesting that you used the term ‘civilized’ there. A part of being civilized is actually to end such discrimination in public places such as parks for instance.

      Reply to this comment
  3. Pissed at Maldives
    September 06, 15:29 #3 Pissed at Maldives

    This is not about charging a fee for foreigners. They could even charge $100 Dollars if they feel like. But the issue is the DISCRIMINATION. The purpose of the charge. To clearly shut off Migrant Workers who have no place to go, neither no choice. We all face difficulties cause the level of congestion in Male’. But discriminating people is not the solution for it. We need better policies and the government needs to be strict on Human Trafficking. Maldivian need to take initiative and do our own jobs, then we won’t need so much of foreign labour to do all the simple tasks which we are too lazy to do. Even the economy will be healthier. Talking about Developed countries which charge tickets to foreigners, they have plenty of grounds and parks and social gathering areas. Most countries has several free parks and the tickets are charged for certain places like Botanical Gardens or Parks with Museums. in Male’ how many places are there for both us and foreigners? We are all crammed up like wild animals within this 5km and no one seem to be able to manage the issues within our society. When we proudly say we are a 100% Muslim Nation, certain people have no shame in doing the devils acts of such discrimination among fellow human beings. A doctor from India is ok to sit in the park but the lady who raises your child or the woman who cleans and attends to your old parents are not allowed. Who are we?

    Reply to this comment
    • Bappa
      September 07, 00:35 Bappa

      Mihiry maa bodah engifa. Boa halaaku

      Reply to this comment
      • bafaa
        September 07, 11:40 bafaa

        Very insightful comment, very thought provoking. Makes you think about the situation in a completely different light. /s
        Aan, k boa halaaku vefa @ bappa

        Reply to this comment
  4. Edhuru
    September 06, 16:42 #4 Edhuru

    Ragalhu kameh feee negumaki. Malega bidhesin nah vure iskan dhen jehey kamah feney dhivehinah.
    “ROANU EDHURU”

    Reply to this comment
  5. Kudamonster
    September 06, 17:21 #5 Kudamonster

    Manage your foreign labour intake instead of discriminating others. Provide them with proper accomodation and shower facilities rather then pointing at them as filth. Till you are treated like them you will have no idea how it feels. Sick indeed

    Reply to this comment
  6. MissIndia
    September 06, 19:31 #6 MissIndia

    I am pleased to see that most Maldivians are also sickened by the discrimination against migrant workers and not just me.
    Living and working in an overcrowded cesspit like Male must be bad enough for the poor migrants from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. Don’t make their lives a complete misery by denying them entry to parks and open spaces. Many of these workers are Muslims like you.
    I hope the Indian press and TV media, now one of the largest in the world, gets hold of this story.
    Believe me, you won’t like the consequences.

    Reply to this comment
    • dooky
      September 09, 23:44 dooky

      Bravo old woman so you are working here to feed your family but thinking from Royal family..well Dalit also can dream ..who the hell ask poverty Indians to come and work in Maldives or visit here to buy kilos of Lux Soap for resale in poverty India..dont you have a quality soap there ?

      Reply to this comment
  7. Amaa
    September 07, 00:34 #7 Amaa

    Crappy journalism. Seriously u guys this is too much

    Reply to this comment
  8. Jessica Abdul
    September 08, 22:41 #8 Jessica Abdul

    Let me be honest, Migrant workers are nasty as hell and some are sick perverts. I stopped taking my kids to Jumhooree park because of the creeps. This is a good decision.

    India charges bigger fees for us to get into their parks. Hilarious to see an Indian be such a drama queen in the comments.

    Reply to this comment
  9. waste of time
    September 09, 07:12 #9 waste of time

    Pathetic treatment of your so called Muslim brothers. There is no excuse for separate queues for ferries. If Maldivians don’t want so many foreigners, maybe they should get off their lazy butts and do the work themselves. There really is no need to import slave labor for unskilled jobs. There are plenty of unskilled men smoking cigs, drinking coffee and roaming around on motorbikes who could take the jobs done by Indian and Bangladeshi laborers.

    Reply to this comment
    • MissIndia
      September 09, 15:02 MissIndia

      Separate queues for ferries? Seriously? Are there separate queues for toilets, restaurants and buses too like apartheid South Africa?
      I think Indian airports should have separate queues for Maldivians too. Make them wait at the immigration desk for two hours then subject them to Trump style ‘enhanced security’ which should include a body cavity search for contraband drugs.
      I don’t understand why Maldives needs so many migrant workers? What is so difficult about catching and gutting tuna?

      Reply to this comment
      • Diskans
        September 09, 17:46 Diskans

        MISS INDIA, are you serious? Your lack of knowledge is only embarrassing yourself here. You think you’re such an expert on Maldives? Well, you thought wrong. I can’t stop laughing at you.

        Reply to this comment
      • dooky
        September 09, 23:41 dooky

        Hi old woman is back.
        What about separate queues for you and your Dalits in poverty India every where.
        Wow you are living in the biggest open toilet in the world you talk about toilets ..he he he .a .Maldivian island house toilet is a luxury for poverty Indians like you.
        Now Trump is tightening visa to poverty Indians knowing many are going there with fake certificates Andhara guys are top in this ,,Indian babies go to the west with student Visa and engaged in the oldest profession in the world ..finally marry grandpapa for resident with family blessing.
        Babies are dying without oxygen in many poverty Indian hospitals daily ..and roofs are falling at airports (in Chennai over 70 times ) you talk about the glory of poverty India.
        old woman do you know Maldivians can travel to UK and Italy without Visa ? Even many underdeveloped African countries impose Visa for poverty Indians fearing they will shit in public and rape their kids .
        Finally last year US authorities have conducted cavity search for an Indian female liar diplomat who had mistreated her maid….wow Indian babies love to be maids for Arabs and Europeans ..Maldives is developing this is why she require foreign workers and majority are poverty Indians he he he ..Maldivien resorts are world class and Tuna is well known .

        Reply to this comment
      • Kotharu fani
        September 10, 10:58 Kotharu fani

        India is too busy discriminating within their own people and states to care about other countries, O bitter soul.

        Reply to this comment
  10. Kotharu fani
    September 10, 10:55 #10 Kotharu fani

    Fathmath Isha and Hassan Moosa, did ya’ll get your journalism certificate from tumblr? or from the academia of Western beliefs and standards? Or the Institution of Glorification of Western concepts in social justice? L O L

    Reply to this comment

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