COPE instructs SLBFE to repatriate migrant workers using funds

The Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) has instructed the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) to look into the possibility of repatriation of migrant workers affected by the COVID-19 disaster using funds owned by the Bureau of Foreign Employment.

The committee said so at the meeting held on the 22nd under the chairmanship of Prof. Charitha Herath to look into the special audit report on the current situation in the field of foreign employment.

The committee inquired whether there are any legal impediments to the repatriation of Sri Lankan workers from various countries who have been affected by the COVID – 19 situation using the Foreign Employment Bureau's current assets of Rs. 14 billion. The Chairman of the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) said that there is no obstacle to repatriate foreign workers registered with the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment to Sri Lanka using their funds.

A total of 34,721 workers who lost their jobs due to fall of oil prices in the Middle East and the COVID - 19 disaster have already requested the Bureau of Foreign Employment to repatriate them.

The COPE Chairman also pointed out the need to create a suitable model for the Bureau to look into the repatriation of migrant workers at a time where discussions are underway to open the country in the face of the COVID - 19 and the airport is already open.

It was revealed that Rs. 800 million had been spent on Sri Lankan officers working in Sri Lankan embassies abroad for the year 2019 and the committee informed the officials that they should look into whether the expected services are being rendered by the employees.

The Committee focused on the process of implementing the training courses required for foreign employment by the Bureau of Foreign Employment as well as by the institutions under the various Ministries. These training courses are conducted by the National Apprenticeship and Industrial Training Authority, the National Vocational Training Authority and the Sri Lanka Youth Corps and the Bureau of Foreign Employment.

The COPE Committee stated that a formal methodology for identifying training needs should be developed in line with the current job market and that an action plan for the next 5 years should be prepared and submitted.

The Committee stressed the need to enter into agreements with the relevant parties and the importance of an insurance scheme that would ensure their safety and job security when sending Sri Lankan workers abroad. The Committee further stressed that the Bureau of Foreign Employment should work together with the Foreign Ministry more responsibly to ensure the humanitarian needs and security and welfare of workers sent for foreign employment.

The COPE Committee directed that a formal procedure be followed in recruiting officers to work in Sri Lankan embassies abroad and stressed that various irregularities have taken place in the past due to noncompliance. The Committee directed the Secretary to the Ministry to obtain a suitable recruitment procedure from the Department of Management Services for this purpose.

Ministers Mahinda Amaraweera, State Ministers Ajith Cabraal, Indika Anuruddha, Members of Parliament Patali Champika Ranawaka, Nalin Bandara, Eran Wickramaratne, Officials of State Ministry of Foreign Employment Promotions & Market Diversification, Officials of State Ministry of Skills Development, Vocational Education, Research & Innovations, officials from the Bureau of Foreign Employment were present at the meeting.

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