COPE directs Employment Bureau to use its funds to repatriate migrant workers

Wednesday, 27 January 2021 00:00 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}



  • SLBFE Chief Ratwatte says registered workers can be repatriated using its funds
  • Currently asset base of SLBFE stands at Rs. 14 b
  • Nearly 35,000 workers who lost jobs in ME due to oil price drop and COVID are seeking repatriation
  • COPE finds over Rs. 800 m spent in 2019 for upkeep of welfare officers attached to SL embassies abroad
  • Requests FEB to probe if expected services are rendered by officials for welfare of migrant workers

The Committee on Public Enterprises (COPE) has instructed the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) to look into the possibility of repatriation of migrant workers affected by COVID-19 using internal funds.

COPE Chairman MP Dr. Charitha Herath made the suggestion when the committee met to discuss the special audit report on the current situation in the field of foreign employment.

The committee inquired whether there are any legal impediments to the repatriation of Sri Lankan workers from various countries who have been affected by COVID–19 using the funds of the SLBFE, the current assets of which stand at Rs. 14 billion. SLBFE Chairman Kamal Ratwatte said that there is no obstacle to repatriate foreign workers registered with the Bureau using its own funds.

Approximately 34,721 workers who lost their jobs due to fall of oil prices in the Middle East (ME) and the COVID-19 pandemic have already requested the SLBFE to repatriate them. The COPE Chairman said the Bureau needs to have a strategy for the repatriation of migrant workers as the airport is already open.

It was revealed that Rs. 800 million had been spent in 2019 on welfare officers attached to Sri Lankan embassies abroad, and the Committee informed the officials that they should look into whether the expected services are being rendered by the employees.

The Committee also focused on the training courses required for those leaving for foreign employment.  These training courses are conducted by the National Apprenticeship and Industrial Training Authority (NAITA), the National Vocational Training Authority (VTA) and the Sri Lanka Youth Corps and the SLBFE.

COPE stated that a formal methodology for identifying training needs should be developed in line with the current job market and that an action plan for the next five years should be prepared and submitted.

COPE stressed the need to enter into agreements with the relevant parties and the importance of an insurance scheme that would ensure their safety and job security when sending Sri Lankan workers abroad. COPE further stressed that the SLBFE should work together with the Foreign Ministry more responsibly to ensure the humanitarian needs, security and welfare of workers sent for foreign employment.

COPE directed that a formal procedure should be followed in recruiting officers to work in Sri Lankan embassies abroad and stressed that various irregularities have taken place in the past due to noncompliance. COPE directed the Ministry Secretary to obtain a suitable recruitment procedure from the Department of Management Services for this purpose.

Ministers Mahinda Amaraweera, State Ministers Ajith Nivard Cabraal, Indika Anuruddha, Members of Parliament Patali Champika Ranawaka, Nalin Bandara, Eran Wickramaratne, officials of State Ministry of Foreign Employment Promotions and Market Diversification, officials of State Ministry of Skills Development, Vocational Education, Research and Innovations, and officials of the SLBFE were also present at the meeting.