Following the spread of the coronavirus, information on social networking sites, including Facebook, has become increasingly vocal about the plight of many Sri Lankans who are working in foreign countries and have no way to return home safely.
On this basis, a large number of posts about distressed Sri Lankan workers in the Middle East, especially in Dubai, are being shared on social media with video.
Since the outbreak of the coronavirus in early March this year, many Sri Lankan workers have lost their jobs and are unable to return home, unable to meet food requirements and other basic necessities, according to Facebook posts.
Under these circumstances, hundreds of people who had registered with the Sri Lankan Consulate General in Dubai in anticipation of their return to the country since last March point out that they have been treated unfairly.
Sri Lankan workers in Dubai say they are facing great difficulties without jobs, food and shelter, and are suffering from fear of the coronavirus.
They also claim that the authorities give preference only to those who have paid for the flight and those who are closer to them, and no much attention is paid towards those who are waiting with the expectation to return to the country at government expense.
Apart from this, Sri Lankan workers in Dubai say that those who have not registered, depositing money with the Sri Lankan Overseas Employment Bureau when coming to work here are being ignored by consular officials. They also complain that many of those who had registered after them have already returned home.
Sri Lankan Consulate General in Dubai, Nalinda Wijerathna, when contacted said that 279 Sri Lankans had been repatriated on a special flight on October 10.
The Sri Lankan Consulate General also said that another 70 women who were stranded in Dubai due to the Covid-19 infection will return home by the next scheduled flight.
Wijerathna also said 50 housemaids staying in a shelter set up in Dubai under the supervision of the Sri Lanka Overseas Employment Bureau and 20 women in temporary shelters run by the consular office are awaiting their return. In addition, 20 pregnant women have been already repatriated in a flight organized by the Sri Lankan government on October 10.
The consulate in Dubai said 140 people, both men and women, were being housed in temporary shelters operating under the supervision of the consulate.
Consular General Nalinda Wijerathna said steps would be taken to repatriate them in subsequent flights, but did not provide any definite information on the procedures for Sri Lankans registered in anticipation of repatriation at government expense.
“About 21000 people have registered with the consulate for repatriation from Dubai. However, not everyone is currently expected to return to the country. Many of the registrants are now engaged in other professions. A certain number of people who have expired visa period and those workers who had come on tourist visas are staying in parks in Dubai,” said Wijeratne.
However, the Consular General said that an agreement had been reached with the Dubai authorities to extend the visa period of the distressed Sri Lankan workers and grant them amnesty.
Meanwhile, 43,500 Sri Lankans have returned home from Dubai until the suspension of flights to Sri Lanka on October 8, according to the Covid-19 Affairs Division of the Ministry of External Affairs. In addition, the Ministry of External Affairs has allocated about 53 million rupees for the benefit of Sri Lankans in the countries affected by the Corona outbreak. From this amount, about 30 million rupees have been spent so far on Sri Lankans affected by various conditions caused by the coronavirus in foreign countries, it said.
The number of corona infections in the country has now crossed to over 20,000 due to the corona cluster caused by a garment factory in Minuwangoda in early October and the cluster at the Peliyagoda fish market. The death toll from the corona infection has risen to 94 as of November 24.
The Sri Lankan Consulate in Dubai has further stated that due to this, the repatriation of affected Sri Lankans from foreign countries has been suspended.
However, more than a hundred Sri Lankan workers who have taken refuge in parks in Dubai are waiting with great anticipation as to when will the next flight to Sri Lanka will begin? Will he/she get a chance to return to the country?
However, it is noteworthy that news about the plights of migrant workers and videos about various difficulties faced by most affected Sri Lankans in many Middle Eastern countries, including Dubai are being shared on social media every day.
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