The UAE is a land of endless opportunities for Sri Lankans amid Covid-19 pandemic, said Dhamika Malraj de Silva, the Sri Lankan Ambassador to the UAE.
He cited that at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, many Sri Lankan expatriates who had lost their jobs had registered for repatriation.
However, they were either retained or found new opportunities, and those who left have returned to find new jobs, which showed that the UAE labour market remained robust.
“Only 7,000 to 8,000 expats have left for Sri Lanka. The repatriation is almost complete. Initially, most of those who had registered were not repatriated because they had either rejoined the same company or found some other jobs in the UAE. Many Lankan nationals returned and found new jobs. The embassy created awareness about new vacancies that helped them find new jobs. The UAE government was supportive of the repatriation process,” De Silva said on the occasion of the 73rd Sri Lankan Independence Day, marked on Thursday.
It has been quite a ride for De Silva, who assumed office as Sri Lanka’s envoy to the UAE last May, at the height of the Covid-19 crisis.
“I had to immediately get into action. We expedited air travel to Sri Lanka, distributed dry rations among the needy, launched a 24/7 hotline, provided shelter facilities, coordinated with hospitals for admission of Covid-19 patients, distributed medical items for the infected and arranged free PCR tests for those returning home. Now, we’re coordinating with hospitals for the vaccination programme of our community members,” he said.
The envoy praised the timely assistance offered by the UAE authorities. “We faced challenges when expats lost their jobs and the mobile consular services provided to the Lankan community in distant places were temporarily withheld. Fortunately, the UAE government extended an amnesty period. We’re able to overcome the crisis because of their full support,” he said.
The ambassador aims to boost economic cooperation with the UAE and seeks to focus on Expo 2020, which will be held from October 1, 2021, to March 31, 2022.
“We’ll surprise the world at the Expo by showcasing the best of our culture and heritage. Plans are afoot to promote our tourism and exports. Sri Lanka offers a lot of business opportunities for the world at large,” he added. The emerald isles have also reopened its tourism sector after 10 months on January 21, the envoy said.“We’re allowing 2,500 tourists from the UAE at a time, in line with our bio-bubble arrangement,” he added.
The UAE is Sri Lanka’s largest trading partner in the Arabian Gulf region, and the country is also a home to around 300,000 Lankans. (Khaleej Times)