Maldives airport row: GMR employees' visas to be cancelled

The work permits and visas of GMR employees will be cancelled within seven days after the Indian infrastructure giant was ordered by the Maldives government to hand over the Male airport, a media report said Thursday.

The immigration and emigration department informed that following the termination of the agreement between the Maldivian government and GMR, the work permits and visas of employees of GMR will be cancelled within seven days, reported

The government Tuesday decided to terminate the agreement signed in June 2010 between GMR-MAHB Consortium, Maldives Airports Company Ltd., and the government of the Maldives, to lease the Ibrahim Nasir International Airport in Male to GMR for 25 years.

Mohamed Khalid, deputy chief executive officer of immigration department, told Sun Online that since the government has given notice of seven days to GMR to hand over the airport, the work permits and visas issued to GMR employees will not be valid after this period.

He said that this is as per existing regulations.

"Government institutions have to comply with the government’s decisions, so we have decided to do this,” he was quoted as saying.

Another media report, however, said that Immigration Department has decided not to renew visas and work permits of foreign employees of Ibrahim Nasir International Airport (INIA) operator GMR group. quoted Deputy Immigration Controller Hamid Fathulla as saying that that the decision was made on the back of the government’s decision to annul the agreement GMR. He added that though the visas will not be renewed, employees can remain in Maldives until the end of their current visa period.

GMR has described as "illegitimate" the order by the Maldives government to hand over the Male airport within seven days after its contract was annulled, and insisted the company will not leave the Indian Ocean archipelago nation.

Former president Mohamed Nasheed Wednesday said the government of President Mohamed Waheed Hassan Manik used xenophobia, nationalism and religious extremism to attack GMR and annul the agreement.

The agreement was signed during the regime of then president Mohamed Nasheed. The $500-million project was hanging in balance ever since the regime change in the Maldives earlier this year.

After a civil court in the Maldives ruled that GMR cannot claim $27 from passengers as Airport Development Charge and insurance surcharge, the Indian firm had taken the case to Singapore for arbitration.

GMR was deducting $27 from each passenger since January.

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