Nimal Siripala De Silva, Minister of Labour, says directives have been given to the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment to tap into the substantial funds it keeps in fixed deposit accounts to pay for air tickets for repatriation.
Around 63,000 Sri Lankan expatriates were waiting to return to the island, but so far over 30,000 have been repatriated, the minister said during a press conference.
There is now, however, a backlog,” he said, adding that the reason for this was the restriction of quarantine facilities in Sri Lanka.”
Therefore, in discussions with the COVID-19 task force, the International Employment Bureau was directed to take immediate action to set up 09 provincial centers to quarantine Sri Lankan expatriates who wish to come back, the Labour Minister continued.
“The expenses for quarantine work may be paid from the Foreign Employment Bureau’s funds.”
In the meantime, Sri Lankans who are stranded in foreign countries have been criticized for not being able to buy air tickets to return to the country, the minister added.
So now, after registering with the Bureau, I have instructed the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment to use the reserves in their fixed deposit accounts to buy air tickets for those who have gone abroad. We have a responsibility to get them back.
The Minister of Labour has called on Sri Lankan expatriates who wish to return to Sri Lanka to register with the respective consular divisions of the Sri Lankan embassies or to contact the Foreign Relations Division via 800119119 for information.