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Long term Ukraine, Russian tourists asked to leave amidst rising concerns

26 February 2024 07:55 am - 26     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}


In an urgent move to prevent any diplomatic tension between Russia and Sri Lanka, President Ranil Wickremesinghe yesterday ordered an immediate investigation into the circular that had been released by the Head of the Immigration and Emigration Department to the Tourism Ministry Secretary stating that Russian and Ukrainian tourists living long term in Sri Lanka had to leave within 14 days.

In a hurriedly released statement, the President’s Media Division said that the President had ordered an investigation into the circular that had been released without prior cabinet approval and added that the government had not officially decided to revoke the visa extensions previously granted to the tourists.

Days after the Daily Mirror exposed that a rising number of Russian tourists were engaging in prostitution in Sri Lanka as well as running other unregistered and illegal businesses, especially in the south, the Immigration Department released a letter to the Tourism Ministry Secretary requesting him to notify the long term Ukrainian and Russian tourists living in Sri Lanka to leave by March 7.

The circular said that Ukrainians and Russians who were affected by the stoppage of flights to their home countries after the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine war were allowed to remain in Sri Lanka since February 28, 2022, a full two years, based on free visa extensions and without the imposition of penalties for expired tourist visas.

The letter further said that although the Russian-Ukraine conflict continues, there are now direct flights between Russia and Sri Lanka, while Ukrainians also have facilities to enter and leave Sri Lanka by air. It was observed that it is no longer necessary to keep extending their visas in the same manner and Russian and Ukrainian tourists belonging to the above categories had been given 14 days from Feb.24, 2024 to March 7, 2024, to leave this country.

The President who was unaware of this circular being released ordered a probe into how such a document could be released without prior cabinet approval and has sought an explanation from the Immigration Chief.

Tourism Minister Harin Fernando who was also notified of the letter only once it was received by the Ministry Secretary however told Daily Mirror that some Russian tourists who were staying long term in Sri Lanka had indeed resorted to running unregistered and illegal businesses in the south which had sparked serious concerns.

He said that his Ministry had held discussions with the Immigration Department following several complaints from local businesses and following raids conducted by the authorities, several of these businesses run by Russian nationals were not registered with the SLTDA and neither were they paying taxes.

Weligama and Arugam Bay were two hotspots identified by the authorities where a rising number of Russian-run businesses were popping up with many such establishments allowing only‘white skin’nationals with a strict ban on locals. Some of the businesses included running bars and restaurants and even hiring scooters and tuk-tuks and conducting water sports.

Sources said that Sri Lanka did not benefit from such businesses as Russian tourists were usually notified of these places by their tour agents before arriving in the country and all payments to use these services run by the Russians here had to be paid before they arrived in the country.“so it is not like they brought in any dollars here,” senior sources said.

Despite these setbacks, Russia remains one of the leading markets for Sri Lanka Tourism and with the government now attempting to prevent any strain in diplomatic relations between Moscow and Colombo will look at seeking a solution to overcome this issue.

Government sources in the meantime told Daily Mirror that since February 28, 2022, a significant number of Russian and Ukrainian visitors had been living in Sri Lanka by obtaining periodic extensions of their tourist visas, following the outbreak of war between the two nations. Initially, approximately 11,463 Russians and 3,993 Ukrainians were granted visa extensions during this period.

Over the ensuing months, the Cabinet of Ministers had granted multiple extensions to these tourists as a result of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine. However, government sources said that on this occasion, in the absence of a formal decision from the cabinet, Immigration and Emigration Controller Harsha Illukpitiya issued a letter on Thursday, February 22, to the Tourism Ministry Secretary, urging them to inform the affected Russian and Ukrainian tourists about the new policy. This directive was also shared with the Secretaries of the Foreign and Law and Order Ministries.

  Comments - 26

  • D P P Prasad Monday, 26 February 2024 08:41 AM

    It is more obvious that certain tourists who descend from Russia and Ukrain are engaged in running illegal brothel houses specially in Colombo and suburbs. Certain female tourists are engaged in the mobile brothel round the clock. Further these women make the sexual transmitted diseases disseminated hassle free. Therefore the decision being taken to repatriate them to their motherlands is very vital

    Nandasena Gopallawa Monday, 26 February 2024 09:09 AM

    Do not disturb the oldest profession. Udayta gangen naawanna. One man promised to flood this nation with Ukrain tourists to bring happiness to the nation and now he is silent.

    Jayantha Monday, 26 February 2024 09:18 AM

    Immigration department does noy need cabinet approval to issue circulars. Rw should chk his brain. Probably his party crooks involved in these illegal activites.

    suthira Monday, 26 February 2024 09:24 AM

    leave the prostitutes maybe, our VIPs need entertainment or else their focus will turn towards creating chaos in our general public and their families

    Nilmini Welivita Monday, 26 February 2024 09:30 AM

    The country does not need these lowlife back packers and should kick them out because they are making the country undesirable for tourists from wealthy countries,

    Tourist from a wealthy country Monday, 26 February 2024 09:46 AM

    These people are refugees, your obligation is to help them.

    Lena Jeanette Fernando Monday, 26 February 2024 09:36 AM

    It's well known amongst the public that the Russian are running water sports

    Iwazaru Monday, 26 February 2024 09:56 AM

    The new party will be "Indian Face specking Hindi" sponsored by the Minister who does not know Sri Lankan history and geography.

    johan Monday, 26 February 2024 09:58 AM

    If they are doing illegal business without paying tax what is Inland Rev.Chief doing?Is he just recovering VAT and PAYE Tax from Innocent poor people and allowing the sharks to escape. Why can't he digitalize the dept. We can guide him how to run the dept. effectively.

    Kd Monday, 26 February 2024 10:07 AM

    Economic crisis was because we had no tourists and these Russian and Ukrainian came first. Now that other tourists are coming we are throwing them under the bus. We are the most grateful bunch. And this Immigration officer should consult with others before making such a big decision.

    Akusal Monday, 26 February 2024 11:36 AM

    These are not tourists. They're nothing but scum living off us. Send them back immediately. Immigration department shouldn't have to get cabinet approval to send illegals back.

    Confusion Monday, 26 February 2024 10:23 AM

    Immigration Department should be knowing how many long

    Visa’s Handle By Immigration Department Monday, 26 February 2024 01:24 PM

    Both long and short term Visa’s should be know by immigration department. When the tourist depart, immigration will know the figures. Tourism ministry should promote SL to world

    Latley Gunasekera Monday, 26 February 2024 10:26 AM

    I can Garantie you one thing: If this could implement properly despite ministers /topbuisness men barriers ,the arrival of Russian/Ukrainian will drop down dramatically. But tourist total revenue remain the same or increase. Then westerners whom don’t want to mingle with them will come to spend their holidays in Sri Lanka.I know it in first hand. My brother in law and his family ((twice they have been here)didn’t visit to Sri Lanka last summer. Instead they went to Bali for two weeks staying at the Oberoi spending more than USD 1000.00 per night . They have been very satisfied with service/ meals etc and have already booked for next year for their neighbors as well.

    Terrence K Monday, 26 February 2024 11:03 AM

    What we cannot understand is that when the country was in dire straits owing to our foreign currencies dipping the Russians and other foreigners were welcome giving them right royal greetings at the Airports etc. but now when the tourist business has increased exponentially now the government is trying to pick and choose who are good or bad tourists. Don't give the impression to worldover that we are time servers. We have to remember these tourists come from different cultures and they are used to different life styles or why do they need to come to Sri Lanka they could have chosen countries which have laws that have legalized something that is not available here. Our Sri Lankans try to be puritans but upto all the villany under the sun surpassing countries where legalized activities are taking place!!!!!!!

    dinesh Monday, 26 February 2024 11:23 AM

    a farce of a goverment...left hand does not know what the right hand is doing...

    Russian Monday, 26 February 2024 11:38 AM

    I hope that after all these insults to the Russian people there will be an adequate reaction from the Russian embassy, ​​I hope that the Russians will begin to relax and spend money in other truly hospitable countries and will stop helping Sri Lanka when it begs for fuel, medicine, etc

    M Fernando Wednesday, 06 March 2024 02:00 AM

    Cannot help but agree. When SL was the world's pariah, and recently when we had to beg for our fuel, Russia was one of the few countries that extended a helping hand. Today, Russia and Iran are both huge markets for our primary exports. We Sri Lankans are short-sighted and have no gratitude to those who helped us in the past but are willing to bend over for our old and new Imperial Masters. Lets see where that takes us.

    Cluster phobia Monday, 26 February 2024 12:15 PM

    In Colombo 03 (deal place) etc the same scenario with Chinese nationals running businesses. So once Sri Lanka have their own Little India, China Town, Russia street etc. in addition to the already established clusters like Wella, Kotahena, Beruwala perhaps the next president should invite the UN to establish their head quarters in Sri Lanka where the whole world will have their little turfs around the UN head quarters :)

    Jayaseeli Christiansen Monday, 26 February 2024 12:42 PM

    Good for Sri Lanka for going behind “Quantity” and not “Quality”! They should have given not just 14 days extension but “Free-visa” on arrival to Western tourists and not Eastern tourists! This is the way they can generate income with dignity

    RW keep out Monday, 26 February 2024 12:46 PM

    I can see parallel between cricket board crisis and Russians issue in terms of how RE handles. One who does the job goes home whilst the culprits stay carrying on and cerebrate. What a pathetic situation and spineless leaders of our country

    Cherath Monday, 26 February 2024 02:07 PM

    Unnecessary web of confusion and high danger Sri Lanka dives into because of short term benefits and publicity. Russia since turning up capitalist is the Nation with heaps of sin (human smuggling, drug trafficking, prostitution at international level, all interconnected). The last thing you want is any government stepping in to grant indefinite visas to such an outfit, resulting in mayhem. Once settled, they set up their own crime syndicates and multiply manifold. Like leeches or octopuses they will be difficult to remove and the crime organisations they set up will be rooted so deep it is near impossible to dismantle. Snakes in the wild allowed to settle on your lap!

    Gayan Monday, 26 February 2024 04:05 PM

    Then RW should take action against illicit business run by these 'tourists'. May be his election campaign is funded by these crooks. Saw him running around with a tourist during his visit to the south last week.

    Jega Monday, 26 February 2024 04:14 PM

    You cannot allow the secretaries to run the country as they want. They should obtain approval from the subject minister before issuing such circulars. Take stern action against him so that other secretaries also could learn a lesson. Policy matters is something for the ministers and president.

    Gareth Brawn Monday, 26 February 2024 04:23 PM

    I have been coming to Sri Lanka for many years and have many Sri Lankan friends. I was in Unawatuna in January and was shocked by the level of Russianisation of the area. Lots of Russian-owned, Russian-only businesses. My local friends are very disturbed by this trend. They are taking money away from local businesses and many are not paying taxes. If allowed to continue Unawatuna will turn into Moscow-On-Sea. The way they treat locals and their behavior when they get drunk is also not desirable

    ROSH Monday, 26 February 2024 06:36 PM

    Unelected master debating president loves Russian nationals.. they love illegal activities. At least they are contributing to the economy. But unelected master debating president loves his double bed. All Russian are invited to his double bed on mile high club spending one night stand. So Russian will know when unelected master debating president’s steamy double bed and all internal work done externally by unelected master debater. He loves central bank, the economy, family crooks who master debated my country in front of the the parliament over 50 years and counting. Please GOD help my country to choose educated minority leader to become president and running my country for the prosperity of the nation. I don’t see nomal folks are struggling to walk having spent time with unelected master debating president on his steamy double bed.

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