The UN Migration Agency, International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Health Ministry on Friday signed a Memorandum of Understanding for the establishment of a health assessment program for foreign nationals applying for Sri Lankan residence visas.
In a statement, the IOM said the program will be set up by IOM on a ‘build-operate-transfer’ basis, which will allow the ministry to take it over once it is up and running.
“Since the end of Sri Lanka’s long running civil conflict in 2009, the country has seen a significant increase in foreign investment and tourist arrivals. Mega investment projects such as the Colombo Port City, Hambantota Port and the signing of several free trade agreements with neighboring countries have resulted in a spike in arrivals of foreign nationals, including migrant workers.
pplications for both residence and work visas are increasing rapidly,” it said.
It was reported that many of the migrant workers are arriving from countries with a higher disease burden than Sri Lanka, which has made progress in combating communicable diseases and has some of the best health indicators in the region.
The health assessment program will screen for four health conditions: active TB, HIV/AIDS, malaria, and filariasis. Anyone testing positive for any of the diseases will be referred to the government health system for treatment paid for through a health insurance scheme to be set up as part of the program.
While they undergo the prescribed treatment, they will be issued with an interim visa to stay in the country and will be monitored by the Health Ministry for treatment compliance. The interim visa will grant the same rights to work or study as the residence visa.
IOM Sri Lanka Chief of Mission Giuseppe Crocetti said the new cooperation framework is a first of its kind for IOM globally.
“It is a major achievement and reflects the long running partnership between IOM and Sri Lanka in advancing the migrant health agenda,” he said.
Meanwhile, Health Ministry Secretary Janaka Sugathadasa said Sri Lanka is globally appreciated for its public health achievement of having eliminated malaria and filariasis, and keeping HIV and tuberculosis at low prevalence.
“This inbound health assessment will further consolidate the public health achievements of the country,” he said.