- After two-day exercise today and tomorrow, next phase to start on 8 Aug.
By Charumini de Silva
The Government will resume the repatriation of stranded Sri Lankans overseas today and tomorrow whilst a more regular and continuous process will be launched from 8 August.
“Two flights carrying 330 passengers each from Dubai and Abu Dhabi will arrive today and tomorrow respectively. Thereafter we will have a break for the repatriation operations till 7 August as Police and Tri-Forces will be deployed for election work. From 8 August onwards, we will recommence repatriation on a continued basis with two flights per day,” Additional Secretary to the President for Foreign Relations Admiral Prof. Jayanath Colombage told Daily FT.
He said the UAE government has offered to sponsor the PCR tests for the 660 Sri Lankans who will be repatriated today and tomorrow and commended their continued support to Sri Lanka.
“Over 55,000 Sri Lankans have expressed their keenness to come back and this number keeps fluctuating according to factories being reopened, universities commencing online lectures and so on and so forth. However, we have identified around 6,000 people who are the most vulnerable and the focus now is to bring them back during August,” Prof. Colombage said.
Whilst national carrier SriLankan Airlines will help repatriate the bulk of the Sri Lankans in Dubai, Jordan, Maldives, India and Italy; flights from Korean Airlines and Qatar Airlines will be used as well.
“Korean Air will fly to Colombo to take some of the Sri Lankan workers back and Qatar Airlines is sending some of their employees back home; so we are making the maximum use of this opportunity to repatriate Sri Lankan nationals wanting to come back in those two countries,” Prof. Colombage added.
Repatriations had initially been pushed to early September after it was suspended on 14 July in the wake of the unexpected spike of COVID-19 cases from Kandakadu Rehabilitation Centre, Senapura Rehabilitation Centre and Rajanganaya in Anurdhapura District transforming into new clusters and thousands having been taken into the quarantine centres. However, with the cluster now completely under control and no threat reported in society, a decision was taken to resume repatriations.
He said that after much deliberation, the Army and health authorities this week gave their green light to commence the repatriation of Sri Lankans who urgently need to be brought back into the country due to job losses and loss of their places of accommodation in their countries of stay.
Although the BIA is expected to be closed till September as initially planned, Prof. Colombage assured that the Government would facilitate the return of all these Sri Lankan nationals wanting to come back to the country. Nearly 17,000 Sri Lankans from 65 counties have returned to the country thus far.