- Locals in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Russia and Belarus to return in next few days
- Govt. says estimated number wishing to return has expanded from 38,000 to 41,000
- People in Maldives and Middle East to be repatriated next
- But Govt. warns repatriation will be on needs basis as inadequate quarantine facilities in SL
- 11,000 people on short-term visas stranded in different countries to also be helped, but no special flights
Cabinet yesterday approved repatriating Sri Lankans in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Russia and Belarus in the next few days, as an estimated 41,000 people wait to return home.
Cabinet on Wednesday approved a paper submitted by Foreign Relations Minister Dinesh Gunawardena to focus on repatriating more Sri Lankans on a staggered basis. About 4,500 Sri Lankans have returned but another 41,000 remain, an official said. Earlier the Foreign Ministry had placed the number wanting to return at about 38,000.
“We understand that there are many thousands of Sri Lankans desperately wanting to return home, but we have to be careful that this process is done properly. There are insufficient quarantine facilities for the large number of people who want to return so repatriation will be done based on urgency and availability of resources on the ground,” said Co-Cabinet Spokesman Dr. Ramesh Pathirana.
Accordingly, on 21 May migrant workers in Indonesia will be flown home, followed by Russian students on 22 May, and on 23 May Sri Lankans living in Bangladesh who face the most vulnerability in remaining in that country. On 26 May migrant workers from Qatar will be repatriated and two days after that students from Belarus will return.
“We have received many appeals from over 6,800 workers in the Maldives and the Government is looking at how these people can be returned. Their return will be considered as a matter of priority along with migrant workers in the Middle East once this round of repatriations are complete,” Dr. Pathirana added.
In addition the Government is also working to support 11,000 Sri Lankans stranded in different countries that are attempting to return to Sri Lanka. Dr. Pathirana said the Foreign Relations Ministry would continue to assist them through the Sri Lankan missions around the world but special flights would not be sent to bring them home.