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30 March 2020 12:00 am - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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  • Earlier, on 18 March, Sri Lanka requested foreign governments to facilitate appropriate visa extensions for Sri Lankans currently visiting their countries

 

By Sandun A Jayasekera

Over 17,457 Overseas Sri Lankans (OSL) had by Saturday noon (28 March), registered on the ‘Contact Sri Lanka’ Online Portal of the Ministry of Foreign Relations (MFR).   


Of them, 6,773 were from the Middle East region, 1,892 from Europe, 1,302 from South Asia, 1,028 from North America and over 6,000 from other parts of the world, the MFR added.  
The portal, jointly created by the MFR and the Information and Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA) for the benefit of Overseas Sri Lankans, was launched on Thursday (26) March 2020.   


A bulk of the 700 inquiries received through ‘Contact Sri Lanka’ so far, related to the possibility of return to the country. However in light of the special request made by the Government on Friday  to Sri Lankan expatriates urging them to safely remain where they were now until the risk of COVID-19 virus was minimized and the disease  contained in Sri Lanka. Meanwhile,  the Ministry had taken several measures through its Mission network to continue to facilitate and address the immediate concerns of the Overseas Sri Lankans. Other common inquiries includeed the welfare of student populations, extension of visa, lack of financial support for those unemployed, non-payment of salaries, closing down of commercial establishments and questions on quarantine upon arrival.  


Over the past two weeks since disruptions to travel, Sri Lankan Missions abroad had been particularly vigilant and prompt in taking action towards addressing the impending issues faced, particularly by the student populations. Some of the measures put in place included ensuring that hostels remained open,  food supply/provision  to be maintained by the respective establishments, and that if they were in need of medical assistance they were directed to medical facilities, wherever possible, to seek extensions of university/school payments of students. The Missions were also directed to maintain close contact with educational establishments with Sri Lankan students and  to continue with providing the student community with their welfare assistance.  


With respect to Sri Lankan employees in the Middle East and Asia in particular, Missions were expected to work with host governments to secure fair treatment and concessions for Sri Lankan expatriate workers to the maximum extent possible. That included safeguarding the rights of the workers in relation to payment of salaries and ensuring job security.  


As for the broader population of Sri Lankans, Missions had also been requested to liaise with Sri Lanka Associations, organisations and places of worship established by Sri Lankans, in providing assistance to those Sri Lankans facing difficulty and those in need of assistance in the face of the rapidly evolving situation. The Missions had been requested to mobilize to provide basic sustenance and medical facilities, in full measure.  
Earlier, on 18 March, Sri Lanka requested foreign governments to facilitate appropriate visa extensions for Sri Lankans currently visiting their countries, in view of the control measures issued by most countries due to COVID-19. A number of countries had positively responded to that request, and the Sri Lankan Missions had been asked to communicate the modalities for the process to those affected, while engaging other host Governments to work out reciprocal arrangements, as Sri Lanka extended this facility to all foreign nationals presently in Sri Lanka since mid-March, The MFR stressed.  

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