Objectively assess circumstances before requesting to return to SL: Foreign Secretary

8 May 2020 06:45 pm - 6     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Foreign Relations Ministry Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha requested the Sri Lankans abroad to make an objective assessment of their circumstances before requesting to return to Sri Lanka.

Mr. Aryasinha said this in response to a question asked during a Television interview recorded at the Sri Lanka Rupavahini Corporation (SLRC) yesterday.

The full transcript of the interview is below.

Question
So far, the Government has been going ahead with its programme of repatriation of students of Sri Lanka who are stranded in the countries and the students who wanted to return to Sri Lanka, now the focus of the Government has been diverted towards migrant workers, especially in the Middle East and any other country. A new Cabinet Paper was submitted and approved yesterday. As Foreign Secretary, what can you say about this whole process?

Answer
I don’t see this as a diversion. The Foreign Ministry’s view always had been that once return was allowed and repatriation started, it should be done on the basis of maximum vulnerability. It is on that basis that we recommended that South Asian students be prioritized and that first concluded only about a week ago. Now several other groups of students have also been brought back and will continue to be brought back. The significance of the Cabinet Paper presented yesterday by Foreign Relations and Foreign Employment Minister Dinesh Gunawardena was to re-emphasize something we said in our very original Cabinet Paper over a month ago that the foreign migrant workers are a category which are in dire straits in certain countries and that therefore in parallel with any student movements that we must also pay special attention to them and facilitate their return. In this context, presently I see the Maldives where a lot of Sri Lankans want to come back, particularly about a 1200 - 1500 living in Male Island as the most vulnerable. Then in places like Kuwait, in addition to that vulnerability for COVID which is common to the rest of the Middle East, there is also an amnesty declared by the Kuwaiti government and we are conscious that there is anxiety on the part of foreign employees that if they lose this amnesty they will have greater difficulty coming out and returning as legals someday. The Kuwaiti government at this point has offered to fly them back to Sri Lanka. In fact, this evening Foreign Minister, having received Cabinet sanction yesterday, is going to engage with its Kuwaiti counterpart and will be discussing a process by which Sri Lanka can respect that amnesty offer. We will be starting the process, but the Kuwait government is very conscious that we can’t bring all the people who are wanting to come at this point. Therefore, we will have to, between the two governments, have some negotiations on how we phase that out. Then there is also the problem of Sri Lankan expatriates working in places like Bangladesh, again where COVID is spreading at a very rapid pace and there are more than a thousand people there, out of which about 300 plus are women and children. We will similarly focus on repatriating vulnerable migrant worker categories from the Middle East and elsewhere. The Cabinet Paper’s second aspect was to ensure that local quarantine facilities are reserved for those coming who can’t afford to go to quarantine in Hotels. Third, the Cabinet Paper referred to the continued Diplomatic representation to sustain the large number of migrant workers in their current places of domicile and also to ensure that there is continued supply to the most needy, which is something Missions with the support of the SLBFE has been doing over the past few weeks. I think that is very important at this juncture, because there are issues that come up from time to time, which can be resolved with intervention by the Missions – an extension of visa, a landlord who is demanding rent, a business partner who is demanding back some payment due, somebody who is seeking shelter and fixing a family for them to stay with or someone who hasn’t a meal and wants some dry rations and sometimes medicines. Our Missions across the world, not only in the Middle East are providing valuable assistance to all Sri Lankans abroad. Naturally our capacity is limited financially, but together with Sri Lankan organizations as well as other philanthropic organizations in those countries and churches and other religious bodies we are trying to meet that requirement.

Question
Now what is the message for migrants? As you said there are different needs of them and different situations. So according to their situation what should they think before they request to visit Sri Lanka?

Answer
Well that is a question each migrant has to answer for themselves and a migrant meaning a student, someone working abroad. There is also a category of about 3000 people out there who are there on short term visits and stuck, they don’t have that choice, they have to come back home, and we are trying to draw them also in to the present movements, to the extent possible, probably with the hotels being used for quarantine, which are also now getting filled up. But to those who have a choice, my advice has all along been to make an objective assessment of one’s circumstances. Somebody who is, say in a country where universities are functioning and the term not over, might lose out education wise if that person tries to move around. The same way somebody who is in a job whether in the Middle East or any country, blue collar or white collar, at this point when you come back, you might not be able to return to that job because those countries are also cutting back and everybody is scaling down, and so is the case in Sri Lanka. But if you don’t have a job already, then I can see the logic, but I think it is important that people out there understand that when you come back to Sri Lanka too finding jobs won’t be easy.
So our plea through our Mission network in 67 cities to people out there is that they measure these factors very carefully. Those who insist on coming back, we will prioritize in an objective way. Not by looking at faces or connections, but by looking at the real necessity of their repatriation at this point and our capacity to bring them and quarantine them, so that they are not a danger to those in the country and they don’t unnecessarily expose themselves to danger on the way in to the country.

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  Comments - 6

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  • sam silva Friday, 08 May 2020 07:50 PM

    If these people left our country for their personal reasons and also had the money for their departure, they should do the same if they want to return.

    kalu@gmail.com Friday, 08 May 2020 09:09 PM

    When you get the dollars its cool ha ha

    Travis Fox Friday, 08 May 2020 09:23 PM

    Mr Aryasinha - With respect to your comments ,I am writing to you from saudi arabia. My contract finish and since the 01st of march i am without a job and was to fly back on the 15th of march but unfortunately the airports shut down. I have sent all the money i got to sri lanka and just kept a limited amount with me as i was hoping to come to sri lanka. Since two months i am paying rent and supplying food for me and my family without a income.Now its the third month and on the 1st of may i had to pay rent.if we are not brought back by the end of may i dont know how to pay rent and get food,Not only me there so many who lost jobs over here. our embassy here is useless and not helping its citizens at all.some people may be good but most people in the embassy thing they have come here to enjoy in their pleasure yacht.When we ask for help they insulted us and one guy said ask help from the saudi government.i have all the records i will file a case against these two guys when i com.

    Sandra Saturday, 09 May 2020 11:07 AM

    Dear Mr Aryasinghe- just as much I appreciate your views I would also thank you to think of the others too. Those who have gone overseas for family matters in the hope of returning within weeks. I for one was due to be back home in Sri Lanka on the 27th March but flights were stopped and airports shut down and as a result I and many others here in Australia are stuck and wanting so desolately to back to Sri Lanka and our jobs. We have jobs and can't delay getting back . We have our return tickets and it would be appreciated if you give us consideration too, because we have children and family back bone waiting for our return.

    Sen Saturday, 09 May 2020 11:14 AM

    Until very recent times quite a number of Lankans left Srilanka,telling,they are leaving for good, but it's nice to know now many are struggling to come back,means according to them, here better than those rich countries with better health facilities

    nina Saturday, 09 May 2020 09:34 PM

    People who come back from overseas must be asked to be quarantined for 21 days, 14 days is not enough


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