Sri Lanka Missions in the Middle East have reported that the welfare measures for migrant workers in the Middle East have received an added boost this week, following the decision by the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) to make available resources from the Workers’ Welfare Fund, originally confined to those registered with the Bureau, to all migrant workers irrespective of their registration status, through units within Sri Lanka Missions abroad in 16 stations, a statement from the Ministry said.
This is in addition to funds already allocated by the Foreign Ministry and services provided by Missions in collaboration with local Sri Lankan associations and religious establishments across the world in 67 cities.
The Foreign Ministry has also sought an additional allocation from the Treasury to meet the increasing needs of all Overseas Sri Lankans, presently amidst the COVID-19 outbreak, to increase the efforts of distribution of dry rations. This is to help overcome immediate difficulties experienced by the migrants who are unable to return to Sri Lanka, in view of the present closure of the airports in Sri Lanka for arrival, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
These measures were the focus of a video conference held on Wednesday and attended by senior officials overseeing the region and with the Ambassadors of Sri Lanka Missions and Consulates in the Middle East. Generic issues and other aspects of the present crisis were also discussed during the meeting. Heads of Mission and SLBFE Heads of Unit in Bahrain, Kuwait, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Iran and Israel participated in the discussion. Earlier last Friday (10 April), Minister of Foreign Relations, Skills Development, Employment and Labour Relations, Dinesh Gunawardena met with the respective Secretaries and senior officials of the Ministry of Foreign Relations, the Ministry of Skills Development, Employment and Labour Relations, as well as senior officials of the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE), at the Ministry of Foreign Relations, where policy changes were discussed to address issues relating to migrant workers, particularly in the context of the ramifications emanating from the present Coronavirus pandemic. This was followed by a meeting of the SLBFE Board of Members, where the proposed changes were formally endorsed.