Lankan migrant workers in double talk - SLBFE | Sunday Observer

Lankan migrant workers in double talk - SLBFE

3 January, 2021

The authorities have called upon Sri Lankan migrant workers hoping to return to the country to specify if they needed state-funded quarantining facilities, a senior most official of the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) said. SLFBE Spokesman Mangala Randeniya said most migrant workers prior to arriving in the country say that that they can afford the paid quarantining facilities but say otherwise when they return. “This has now become an issue. We are repatriating workers depending on the situation in the country. Earlier, we had around 25,000 beds to quarantine the returnees and now we have only 10,000 - 15,000 beds,” he added.

Returnees are expected to quarantine in a designated place for 14 days. They could either opt for a Government-run quarantine centre or a hotel that could cost about Rs. 7,500 per day.

Randeniya said the allocation of beds in the Government-run centres to migrant workers are provided on a case to case basis.

“Most of the workers give a written consent stating that they will stay in a paid facility. We bring them down based on this assurance. But when they arrive in the country, they say otherwise. If they genuinely tell us their situation prior to arriving into the country we can make arrangements,” Randeniya added.

Several videos shared on social media by expatriate workers stranded in the Middle East highlighted their plight. Some said that they are charged an exorbitant amount for a return passage to the country.

“We are helpless. I stay in Oman and many people here are now helpless.. We requested for relief to return to Sri Lanka. We published videos but we didn’t get a reply to that,” said a female worker expecting to return to her family.

She added that some of her friends have resorted to sex work to find enough money to facilitate their return.

Another worker in Oman said that when she visited the Sri Lankan embassy she was told to give a written statement agreeing to pay an exorbitant amount for quarantine in a hotel.

She said they are prevented from returning to the country unless they agree to stay at a hotel quarantine facility.

An estimated 45,000 Sri Lankan migrant workers are due to return to the country.