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New project to protect Sri Lankan migrant workers

29 January 2019 - 159   - 0

The need of the hour is to ensure safe passage and protection of Sri Lankan migrants to West Asia and while guiding them to choose the correct path when migrating, said the Minister of Telecommunication, Foreign Employment and Sport, Harin Fernando at a Media briefing held the Duncan White Auditorium of the Sports Ministry this week. 

The Minister said that the National Media Campaign on Safe Labour Migration launched on Monday is aimed at ensuring the safety of Sri Lankan migrants. The project became a reality with the help of the Swiss Embassy in Sri Lanka. 

He said he was not concerned with the numbers of labour migration but how they travel. “We have heard many controversial stories in the past on those who had migrated to West Asian countries and I have realized that different countries have different laws altogether. It is not easy for those who want to return as they have to fight court cases for exit visas and salaries to be paid to them. The Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau (SLFEB) has done a great job in the past but they do not get any praise for it,” he said. 

The Minister pointed to the pitfalls when migrating to West Asia without being registered with the SLFEB. “We have a significant issue of bringing them back as we do not have the right to talk to them. However we have labour officers stationed in the 13 countries that we represent and have our own safe houses as well.” 

The Minister thanked the Ambassador of Switzerland to Sri Lanka Hanspeter Mock and his team for supporting the launch of the National Media Campaign on Safe Labour Migration.

He further said it is easy for the SLFEB to track down people in West Asia if they are registered with the bureau so that children of migrant families become entitled to a host of benefits such as scholarship and insurance benefits and a loan of Rs. 10 million to build a house provided by the bureau. A hot line 1989 has also been provided by the SLFEB for the benefit of migrants. 

Secretary to the Ministry of Telecommunications, Foreign Employment and Sports, Chulananda Perera said that two million Sri Lankans are employed oversees representing 10 per cent of the local population. He said since 2015 Sri Lankans registering with the SLFEB for employment has dropped drastically. “Those low skilled workers employed in West Asia are vulnerable to abuse and threats.”

Ambassador of Switzerland to Sri Lanka Hanspeter Mock said that labour migration has developed to be an important topic in world politics. 

“In 2017 there were 258 million international migrants and this represents 3.4 per cent of the global population. What is less known is that 10 per cent of these migrants are refugees or asylum seekers. This shows that vast numbers of people migrate for better employment, education or for other opportunities such as betterment of their lives and their families. However migration benefits both people and the countries that they go as mentioned in the UN Secretary General’s report in 2018,” the Ambassador said. (Jayampathy)

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