Over 61,750 Sri Lankans repatriated, another 69,000 plan to return | Daily News

Over 61,750 Sri Lankans repatriated, another 69,000 plan to return

The Government has repatriated more than 61,750 Sri Lankans who were destitute in various countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic and nearly 69,000 Sri Lankans from 137 other countries are expecting repatriation, Minister of Labour Nimal Siripala De Silva revealed in Parliament yesterday (08) .

The Minister made this observation answering a series of questions asked under the Standing Order 27 (2).

Minister Nimal Siripala De Silva pointed out, “Of those, 41,452 Sri Lankan workers from 15 countries are registered with the expectation of returning to Sri Lanka. Accordingly, the Ministry of External Affairs and our Ministry in collaboration with the Sri Lankan Missions Abroad and the Labor Divisions established at those missions and the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment conducted data collection on Sri Lankans aspiring to return to the motherland. Accordingly, after registering the Sri Lankans who are expected to come to Sri Lanka, the Presidential Task Force (STF) will analyze the data and compile a list of those who are most at risk in the face of the global epidemic and bring them back to Sri Lanka. The Aviation Authority and the Ministry of External Affairs jointly set up a joint mechanism.”

Minister De Silva said, “The repatriation of Sri Lankans to Sri Lanka is done through two main methods. One, via flights organised by the Government to bring Sri Lankans abroad and the other is via flights arriving in Sri Lanka according to a daily flight schedule.” Answering the question whether it is not possible to provide air tickets at concessionary rates to the needy, the Minister said, “I regret to say that the price of air tickets has gone up compared to the previous year for the following reasons. One reason is due to travel bans and restrictions at airports, airlines have to charge higher prices as there is a minimum limit on the number of passengers on board aircraft. The next reason is due to the inability to bring the cargo and passenger transport of the aircraft to the desired level and due to the weight balancing measures including the number of passengers to be carried out, it is necessary to charge more money to bring the foreign workers to Sri Lanka under the imposed health care schemes. Another reason is the need to direct the staff working in the airlines to a compulsory quarantine process and to maintain the required standards as per the health guidelines and to bear the extra cost of keeping the staff in foreign stops for a long period of time due to limited flights.”

Minister De Silva pointed out that the mandatory quarantine period for Sri Lankans coming to Sri Lanka from abroad is 14 days. However, no policy or guidelines have been put in place requiring payment and accommodation in a quarantine location.

“Therefore, the Government currently maintains 31 Quarantine Centres and Sri Lankans coming to Sri Lanka from abroad are quarantined in these centers. Also, the total capacity of the quarantine centers currently run by the Army is around 5000-6000. When selecting hotels for quarantine on a pay-as-you-go basis, we select hotels with 100 rooms or 100 rooms within the hotel group, and ensure the safety, supervision, and quarantine methods of those hotels. Accordingly, Quarantine Centres are currently operating in 45 tourist hotels according to a payment system. Here, the daily charges approved by the government are as follows; When an individual gets a single room it would be Rs.12,500 and when two people get double room facilities, it costs Rs. 7,500.

Answering to the question whether it is not possible to use the Kuwait Compensation Fund and the Foreign Labor Insurance Fund to provide relief, Minister De Silva observed, “Necessary arrangements are being made for these relief arrangements and will be continued as required in the future.”

Also, foreign labour insurance funds are not allowed to be used for this purpose.

The insurance coverage is obtained for the health insurance of foreign workers and is provided for a specific purpose. However, discussions have been held with the relevant insurance companies on the possibility of including those illnesses in the insurance coverage.

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‘Over Rs. 90 mn to repatriate Sri Lankans working in ME’

The Government has spent more than Rs. 90 million for Sri Lankans working in the Middle East (ME) who are awaiting repatriation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Minister of Labour Nimal Siripala De Silva yesterday (08) said in Parliament.

Minister De Silva said, “Of the Sri Lankans living in the Middle East, 3,923 had been infected with the COVId-19 virus by December, 2020 and 3,834 had recovered. Also, 89 workers have died from the the virus. A total of 31,102 Sri Lankan workers have returned from the Middle East due to various problems caused by the epidemic.”

Minister De Silva pointed out, “The Ministry of External Affairs has airlifted more than 10,000 packets of dry rations and local medicines to Dubai and Doha as part of an immediate effort to provide relief to those affected by the COVID-19 epidemic. In addition, the Ministry of External Affairs has provided relief for basic medicines, medical examinations, temporary accommodation, safety equipment, internal transport, welfare and the provision of air tickets for special occasions. Accordingly, Rs. 82 million has been spent so far.”

Minister De Silva further pointed out, “The Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment has also spent around Rs. 12 million to provide food, medical care and accommodation to migrant workers. In addition, welfare centers run by the Bureau of Foreign Employment will pay hotel fees for quarantined workers, make payments for PCR tests, and implement coordinated air ticketing programs and provide free airline tickets in coordination with various agencies.”

Minister De Silva said: “The introduction of special emergency numbers, the provision of facilities for expatriate Sri Lankans to extend their visas without penalty at the expiration of their visas in consultation with foreign countries, consultation with employers who have failed to pay their salaries, and to agree to pay their salaries. The Government of Sri Lanka continues to provide the necessary legal intervention in cases.”