68,000 Sri Lankans awaiting return - Foreign Secretary | Daily News

68,000 Sri Lankans awaiting return - Foreign Secretary

Flights up to January 9 to carry 1,400 persons:
Ministry, 67 missions coordinate repatriation:

The Government will ensure the return of Sri Lankans in distress despite the worsening global situation triggered by the COVID pandemic, Foreign Secretary Admiral Prof. Jayanath Colombage said.

‘’Repatriation of Sri Lankans, one of the most pressing challenges at hand has been judiciously spearheaded by the Foreign Ministry under Minister Dinesh Gunawardene enduring insurmountable challenges overseas amid lockdowns, isolations, curfews and closure of air space, to ensure swift return of Sri Lankans who are in distress,” Colombage said.

“Since the evacuation of 33 students from Wuhan City, China, in February 2019, the Ministry has been carrying out repatriation for almost a year now and to date 60,470 Sri Lankans, comprising pilgrims, students, Government and Armed Forces personnel, migrant workers, short term visitors, seafarers and cases on compassionate grounds have been repatriated from 137 countries by the Ministry through Sri Lanka Missions overseas,” he said.

Over 40,000 migrant workers, predominantly from the Middle-East region have been the top segment of overseas workers who have benefitted so far whereas another 20,000 Sri Lankans have been brought down from Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin American regions. As the conditions abroad deteriorate and due to the large number of layoffs, the number of prospective returnees keeps rising and currently an estimated 68,000 Overseas Sri Lankans from various regions have been waitlisted by the Ministry for repatriation.

The latest fortnightly schedule of flights to be operated between January 2 and 9, will include 1,400 passengers from Chennai, Melbourne, Kuwait, Doha, Canada, Cyprus and Dubai.

The Ministry and its 67 Missions continue discussions with friendly nations, UN Agencies and regional organizations and have secured as grants and donations large consignments of PCR test kits, Rapid Antigen Test kits, test machines, lifesaving medicines, ventilators, humidifiers and huge quantities of PPEs and face masks towards reinforcing the national COVID containment efforts which has spared the Government from incurring a huge sum of foreign exchange. The Missions are also closely following the developments with regard to manufacturing of vaccines and serving as a conduit of vital and timely information on the feasibilities of sourcing the vaccine(s) from foreign Governments.

The Ministry as measures of immediate relief, airlifted over 10,000 packs of dry rations and indigenous medicines to Male, Dubai and Doha first time in the history of Sri Lanka and has given around Rs.80 million so far for the sustenance of Sri Lankan communities overseas. The funds were aimed at supplying medicine, testing, temporary accommodation, protective gear, internal transport and in some cases air tickets.