By Piyumi Fonseka
Admiral Professor Jayanath Colombage, Additional Secretary to the President for Foreign Relations, told Daily Mirror that according to government policy, the priority in the repatriation procedure for Sri Lankans stranded abroad was not for migrant workers but for students.
He said Sri Lankan migrant workers would be brought back to the country once the repatriation of students was completed and that there were close to 400 students living in the United States, Belarus and the Philippines scheduled to be brought back in the coming weeks.
“Currently, we are giving priority to students. Nearly 275 students will arrive from the Philippines tomorrow and will be sent to quarantine centres after PCR tests at the airport. We will next bring back those who have gone abroad on temporary visas. We have got many reports of such cases. Once that is done, we will bring back the migrant workers on a priority basis with pregnant women and those who have lost jobs taking precedence over the rest,” Admiral Colombage said. He said 30% all COVID-19 patients reported in Sri Lanka were labelled as “imported cases” and that the Sri Lanka could not handle a large number of COVID-19 patients with the available medical and quarantine facilities available in the country.
“That is why we are currently discussing with the respective countries to conduct PCR tests for Sri Lankans seeking to be repatriated at their airports. We will also continue to carry out PCR tests for those who arrive in SL and identify suspected cases sooner than before,” Admiral Colombage said.