SLBFE cautions Korean job seekers to be vigilant
The Government is trying to secure more employment for Sri Lankans in
Italy, the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) Chairman
Kingsley Ranawaka said in an exclusive interview with Sunday Observer.
Q: The Sri Lankan Government is paying close attention
regarding employment in South Korea in addition to the Middle East. What
is the progress of this program?
A: Nearly 10,000 candidates has passed the South Korean
language test. No sooner we receive the medical certificates of these
candidates their names will be added in the South Korean employment
website. For two years, these names will be available in the website. In
the interim, these qualified persons can be employed by other
industrialists with the approval of the South Korean Labour Department.
There is no third party involvement in this process because the South
Korean language test papers are prepared and answer scripts are
corrected in South Korea. The SLBFE and South Korean Government are the
main partners of this program. Certain elements are attempting to cheat
people by promising them that the failed results could be turned into
The SLBFE cautioned South-Korean employment seekers to be vigilant of
such elements. The employment seekers must be fluent in the Korean
The South Korean Government is also for looking skilled workers with
Promotional campaigns conducted by the SLBFE and the ability of Sri
Lankan workers have resulted in more employment in South Korea.
This is not a two or three month deal, it took a long time to secure
more South Korean employment opportunities. It will take a long time to
train workers. Workers must be trained in a manner that will satisfy the
South Korean job market.
The low skills and overstay of workers will also affect employment
opportunities for Sri Lankans. Even though work permits have expired,
certain workers are continuing to work in South Korea.
The Korean Government has informed 15 countries which send workers to
South Korea that overstaying workers will be employed again. This action
of the South-Korean Government will hamper new employment opportunities
for Sri Lanka. Realising the situation, workers who complete five years
should return to the country.
Q: What are the other countries the SLBFE is focusing
attention on in addition to South Korea?
A: The Foreign Employment Promotion Ministry has entered into
an employment agreement with the Italian Government.
Sri Lankan workers will be sent to Italy from next year. No payment
will have to be made by employment seekers. They will be sent free of
charge. There is no third party involvement in this program. The
applications must be submitted to the Italian Embassy in Colombo. Giving
money to any middleman in this process is a punishable offence.
Persons wanting to go to Italy should submit a duly filled
application directly. Another person cannot submit an application on
anyone's behalf. Employment seekers must be vigilant about money making
Q: What is the Middle East country where the highest number of
Sri Lankans are employed?
A: Saudi Arabia is the main country where Sri Lankans are
employed. Over 450,000 Sri Lankans are working here. Altogether over 1.5
million Sri Lankans are working in the Middle East.
Q: What is your target by December 31?
A: At the moment I am unable to state an exact figure. Last
year 265,000 persons left the country for foreign employment. There is a
possibility to reach this number or to exceed it by the end of this
Q: What is the foreign employment promotional work you plan to
carry out in the future?
A: Arriving at a successful employment agreement with the
Italian Government is a great victory. There are positive signs of
obtaining employment in other European Countries as well.
Q: Some migrant workers complain that they have no connection
with relatives who are abroad. What are the moves being taken in
connection with their problems?
A: The SLBFE received over 7,000 complaints on a daily basis
in the last three years. Due to timely moves taken by the SLBFE with the
help of embassies, this number has declined to below 2,500 in a few
years. The percentage of normal complaints has declined by a
considerable amount. As the SLBFE has a close network connection with
embassies, it is not a difficult task to communicate with migrant
workers who have no connection with relatives in Sri Lanka.
Q: Number of our housemaids are languishing in Embassies. Some
have escaped from their work place due to torture by employers. What
action has been taken by the government in connection with these women?
A: They will be brought to the country soon. They will not be
left there to languish. Some women come to the embassy even without a
passport. It will take some time to arrange a temporary travel document.
After arranging temporary travel documents they will be brought to the
Q: What action is to be taken against the employer who
tortures or harasses housemaids?
A: We have instructed embassies to take legal action against
employers who harass or torture Sri Lankan housemaids or workers in the
work place. Unfortunately, a few incidents have taken place early last
year. No sooner such an incident was reported we sent an investigative
team to that country. We also send a Judicial Medical Officer to the
country where these incidents have occurred.
At the moment there is a woman in Bahrain who claimed that she was
fed with iron nails by the employer. This news also appeared in certain
newspapers in Sri Lanka. Immediately, after we came to know of this
incident we sent an officer from Kuwait to Bahrain to investigate into
We told her if she had been forced to swallow iron nails by the
employer, legal action should be taken against him.
She denied the claim. So we couldn't take any action against the
employer. This woman is now in the custody of an NGO in Bahrain. This
NGO is fighting for the rights of migrant workers. If such an incident
takes place we won't keep quiet.
There was a problem to bring that woman to Sri Lanka as the employer
was going to sue this woman for making false allegations against the
employer. The Bureau held discussions with the employer. He came to the
conclusion that he must be paid compensation. We held discussions with
the Agency. It agreed to settle a portion of the compensation. The SLBFE
had to bear the rest and the air ticket for the woman. She will arrive
in Sri Lanka shortly.
Q: A few words of illegal Agencies?
A: To my knowledge the number of illegal agencies have dropped
due to stringent measures being taken by the SLBFE. The Foreign
Employment Act was amended in 2009. The amendment authorises the SLBFE
to conduct special raids on illegal agencies and to take suspects into