By Shezna Shums
Two hundred and nineteen Sri Lankans have sought refuge at the Sri Lankan Embassy in Egypt after crossing the border from Libya, and are now awaiting a flight to Sri Lanka.
The Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment hopes that these people will be able to return to Sri Lanka tomorrow or on Monday (28).
With the new border now opened between Libya and Egypt, Sri Lankans stranded in Libya have a better chance of getting a back to Sri Lanka from Egypt stated the SLFEB. Flights out of Libya are difficult to get as large numbers of people are trying to leave the country. Todate Rs. 2 million has been given to the Sri Lanka Embassy in Egypt for the expenses of the people seeking refuge with them.
According to the SLFEB, even if a Sri Lankan were to hire a vehicle to travel across the border to the Sri Lankan Embassy in Egypt, the embassy will foot the bill. “The embassy will foot the bill for people who travel to the embassies and need to pay for their transportation, as well as provide them with food and shelter,” said SLFEB, Publicity Manager, P.Weerasekera. The Sri Lankan Embassy in Libya is also providing food and shelter to Sri Lankans who are seeking a safe place to stay.
One other major issue facing the stranded Sri Lankans in Libya is that there is a break- down in communication between them and the Sri Lankan Embassy as electricity has been disconnected and the mobile phones are not working. ‘Otherwise we can get in touch with more people and even charter a flight out of the country,” said Weerasekera. According to the SLFEB there are about 1200 to 1300 Sri Lankans working in Libya, 1078 persons employed in Egypt, and around 45,000 in Bahrain.
The situation in Bahrain however is not as bad as in Libya where there is quite a lot of violence and bloodshed.
The SLFEB does not have accurate figures of Sri Lankans in Yemen and Tunisia where uprisings have been reported.
The SLFEB stated that people leaving Sri Lanka for employment did not always register with the SLFEB and as such its figures may not present a real picture of the number of persons who have sought employment abroad. The Government is doing everything possible to bring back the Sri Lankans in Libya through air and sea as the violence in that country escalates daily.