- Calls for more attention to resolve issues faced by migrant workers
- Argues more quarantine centres can be established using two or three star hotels
Samagi Jana Balawegaya member Dr. Harsha de Silva on Sunday criticised the Government for delays in repatriating Sri Lankans living overseas, insisting it was imperative that officials come up with alternative frameworks to bring them home.
Pointing out that only about 6,000 overseas Sri Lankans out of an estimated 41,000 had been repatriated, Dr. de Silva insisted that the Government had a responsibility to continue efforts to bring down as many migrant workers as possible. He emphasised that many workers were living in precarious conditions and therefore it was essential for them to be repatriated as soon as possible.
“Sri Lanka earns over $ 7 billion annually from remittances. These are mostly from migrant workers living in difficult situations in the Middle East and elsewhere. These monies are gleefully accepted but when they are in trouble the Government has turned a blind eye. This should not be the case. The Government does not want the number of COVID-19 cases in the country to increase, therefore it has postponed repatriation. But this is deeply unfair and we demand that this policy be relooked at,” he said.
Dr. de Silva conceded that the Sri Lankan healthcare system had been placed under additional pressure due to a large number of returnees from Kuwait testing positive for COVID-19, but argued the Government could establish more quarantine centres to address the shortages. He contended that two or three star hotels could be deployed to quarantine workers returning to Sri Lanka and these would be more economical for returning Sri Lankans to afford.
He also recalled that the Government received much support from migrant workers, some of whom returned from overseas to vote at the Presidential Elections, and therefore the Government had additional responsibility to be more attentive to the challenges faced by Sri Lankans living overseas.