The Foreign Ministry yesterday instructed the Immigration and Emigration Department to extend the visas of foreigners compelled to stay back in the country due to the cancellation of flights to Europe.
Several Sri Lankan airlines flights to Frankfurt, London and Paris were cancelled since last Thursday due to the unprecedented volcanic eruption in Iceland spewing ash over vast areas of the atmosphere.
“We will grant visa extensions and allow foreigners mostly from Britain, France and Germany to remain in Sri Lanka till the air travel situation improves,” Immigration and Emigration Controller P.B. Abeykoon told the Daily Mirror.
SriLankan airlines information officers were unable to give the number of tourists inconvenienced by this sudden development.
Tourist Board Research and International Relations Director Malraj Kirriella was unable to give us the number of tourists who unable to leave the country though the Tourist Board website provides information of the number of visitors in March -- 2872 from France, 5305 from Germany and 8559 from Britain.
Despite the lack of data the Embassies of the respective Nationals in the country are attempting to ensure the wellbeing of their citizens and their safe return to their respective countries.
The British High Commission reports that 800 British tourists in the country are unable to return, this figure is based on those registered with tour operators, and however a number of others are in the country without registration with tour operators.
“We are working hard to assist British nationals unable to return home from Sri Lanka. We have been liaising with tour operators and airlines to find out the latest information and to identify the best ways to assist stranded tourists and we are providing additional consular assistance to those who need it.
I encourage British nationals unable to return home to read the latest information on www.fco.gov.uk Acting High Commissioner Mark Gooding said in a statement yesterday.
The French Embassy in Colombo has received 210 reports of tourists stranded in Colombo. “We don’t know what visa arrangements the Sri Lankan authorities have planned, however we are not anxious about this situation and believe they will understand. We are at this moment providing our nationals information with regard to the situation and prolonging their stay in the country. We have also informed them to contact their Travel Agencies,” said Capet Hugues the Deputy Head of Mission at the French Embassy in Colombo. (DS)