By Piyumi Fonseka
More than 1000 Sri Lankan migrant workers have lost their lives during the last three years while working in various foreign countries, stated Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBEF) statistics obtained by the Daily Mirror yesterday.
According to the SLBEF data, a total of 1043 Sri Lankans died in 29 destination countries as migrant workers, due to various reasons such as natural, traumatic injuries, road traffic accidents, suicides, work related injuries and intentional self harm.
The data shows that a total of 194 Sri Lankan workers have died between January 01 to December 04, 2019. When compared to the number of deaths reported in the previous years 2018, 2017 and 2016 which are 239, 291 and 295 respectively, there is a gradual decline in the numbers by 2019 - yet not negligible.
Between 2016 to 2019, the highest number of Sri Lankans died in Saudi Arabia with 362 deaths, followed by Kuwait (214), Qatar (133), the United Arab Emirates (125) and South Korea (32) . These countries are among the most sought-after job destinations among Sri Lankan low-skilled workers.
Sri Lanka is heavily dependent on remittances sent by migrant workers. In 2018, Sri Lanka received remittances of over USD 7 billion, accounting for 7.9% of the GDP. According to the SLBEF Corporate Plan 2017-2021, it is estimated that around 1.5 million Sri Lankans -- around 25% of the country’s population -- are in employment overseas.
In the event of a death of a migrant worker, the heir or immediate relative of the deceased applies for compensation from the SLBFE in accordance with the insurance policy agreed upon prior to their departure. Despite the difficulties and unpleasant stories, many still leave in the hope of finding better-paid jobs.