Sri Lankan migrant workers in Middle East countries have become helpless today due to COVID-19 pandemic and no satisfactory action has been taken by the government to look into their well-being, an organisation by the name ‘Free Women’ said.
The movement staged a protest outside the Department of Labour on Wednesday urging the authorities to resolve issues faced by Sri Lankans working overseas.
Its National Organiser Hemamali Abeyratne told Medialk.com that the statistics of Sri Lankans workers dying abroad seems not credible.
"Though it said that 11 Lankans died in the Middle East due to COVID-19, isn’t it 50?." she asked.
She said about three Sri Lankans in Middle East have committed suicide because of the pandemic and some have passed away from heart attacks.
"The 'rataviruwo' who brought foreign exchange into the country have been labelled as human bombs now. There are workers who came to Sri Lanka to vote for President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and is this how they are being treated?," she said.
Ms. Abeyratne said one worker would have to spend an exorbitant amount of money to return to Sri Lanka.
“If a worker returns from Saudi Arabia, he or she will have to spend about Rs.130,000 and another Rs.65,000 for a PCR test. How can a worker who has been jobless for months pay this much money to return home? Though the government has been urged to bring back Sri Lankans, the government has not taken any positive action," she said.
She said there is no information available at the Foreign Affairs Ministry on flights arriving to Sri Lanka from July 9 onwards. "If the government is unable to bring them back, it should at least provide health facilities to the workers abroad," he said.
"Our people don’t even have enough food. Though the government said it has sent millions worth of food to the workers, the workers say that the rations they received are not enough even for a week. The embassies make no intervention. The officials don't take responsibility for the workers. When Sri Lankans go abroad, they have a fundamental right to return. These people have been devoid of this right. Why treat the workers in the Middle East in this manner?”
Meanwhile, the organisation’s members took part in a meeting held with the Foreign Affairs Ministry over the issue.
It said they held a meeting with the Ministry Secretary but they were not satisfied with the system the ministry has put in place to monitor the workers in Middle East.
Ms. Abeyratne said the lives of about 1.2 million Sri Lankans in Middle East were at risk due to COVID-19 pandemic.