Govt seeks extension of amnesty for Lankan workers in Kuwait

The Governments of Sri Lanka and Kuwait are in discussion to extend the amnesty period granted for over 19,000 Lankan workers who are currently out of status, in that country.

Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa had a telephone conversation with Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Sabah Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah recently on the matter. Pursuant to the telephone conversation between the two premiers Foreign Affairs Minister Dinesh Gunawardena had discussed the modalities of the implementation of a possible extension with Kuwaiti Ambassador in Colombo Khalaf M. M. Bu Dhhair.

Foreign Secretary Ravinatha Aryasingha said the Ministry is expecting a mutually beneficial response from the Kuwaiti government in view of the difficulty in repatriating persons to Sri Lanka at this time.

So far the Government has repatriated, persons identified as the most vulnerable categories of Overseas Sri Lankans (OSLs), in the face of the limited availability of quarantine facilities in the country, as Sri Lanka continues to control the spread of COVID 19.

The Secretary said through the ‘Contact Sri Lanka’ web portal and other means, to-date, over 27,000 OSLs have expressed their wish to return. This number includes over 17,000 migrant workers and dependents, 6,000 students and around 3,000 short term visa holders and tourists.

Secretary Aryasinha said the government’s focus in the present wave of repatriation was on students and those on government training in South Asia, considering the vulnerability they faced. This repatriation process is being operationalized by Sri Lanka Missions in those countries in consultation with the Ministry, the Covid 19 Task Force and a host of national agencies.

Meanwhile, Sri Lanka’s network of 67 Missions are assisting and facilitating Lankan expatriates in need. In addition to the provision of dry rations and medicines, where necessary with the assistance of local Sri Lanka community and religious organizations, Missions are also facilitating extension of visa, enabling repatriation/transfer of funds through banking channels, and coordination with educational institutes.

Secretary Aryasinha said the Mission in Seoul had assured job security despite delays in commencing work and they are currently discussing about extending contracts that are about to end. He said International organizations such as IOM, Caritas and Red Crescent societies have been supportive to further the efforts of the Missions.

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