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Mahindananda accuses Kuwait of “sending us their patients” as government struggles with repatriation crisis

ECONOMYNEXT – The government will hold a meeting today to formulate a new plan to repatriate migrant workers from the middle-east after many returnees were found to be COVID 19 positive, and one 51-year old woman died from the disease.

This came after a prominent governing party politician accused the Kuwaiti government of sending COVID 19 infected people to Sri Lanka.

Former Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage told the Derana TV that the Kuwaiti government selected “people who were COVID 19 positive and sent them here on their flights.”

“They have struck us with a bomb. They have sent their COVID 19 patients here,” Aluthgamage said.

As we have reported before the migrant workers being repatriated at present are those who have been declared illegal by the Kuwaiti government.

මේ වගේ මී හරක් තමයි අපේ රටේ ඇමතිකම් කරන්නේ…. මේක කුවෙට් රජයට කරන චෝදනාවක්…

Опубликовано Samsan Fernando Вторник, 26 мая 2020 г.

The Presidential Secretariat said last night, May 26, that the decision to bring Sri Lankans who want to return home stands, but a “new mechanism is to be formulated” and returnee flights in June planned accordingly.

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The situation with regards to Sri Lankan migrant workers in Kuwait, in particular, is reaching crisis proportions.

The media statement said that almost all the returnees from Kuwait were being detained at welfare centres or deportation centres in that country.

As EconomyNext has reported before, several thousand Sri Lankans in Kuwait have been declared illegal in that country due to overstaying of work visas or other issues such as leaving the registered employer’s establishment.

The Kuwaiti government has granted them amnesty and detained these people in camps and has offered free flights home.

They had been given a month to go back, but Sri Lanka had pleaded for an extension of the deadline as there were insufficient quarantine spaces to house such a large number at once here.

The Secretariat noted that by May 25, 5485 Sri Lankans from 20 different countries were brought back and of them, 4826 were identified by the Ministry of Foreign Relations and Sri Lankan missions overseas.

Only five, or 0.01% out of them were found to be COVID positive.

Returnees from the middle-east however, notably those who came from Dubai and Kuwait showed a high number who were COVID 19 positive.

Out of 197 who returned recently from Dubai, United Arab Emirates 20 tested positive for the virus as were 96 out of the 150 returnees from Kuwait who were tested.

More than 300 are yet to undergo testing.

In this context, it has been decided to revise the repatriation process for Sri Lankans living overseas.

The Government has decided on humanitarian grounds to continue to bring back Sri Lankans in the future too considering their fate in the event of not having an opportunity to come home.

The programme to bring back Sri Lankans who are undergoing many hardships due to the global spread of the virus commenced in last January under the guidance of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the release said.

Around 33 Sri Lankans including students arrived from Wuhan, China on February 1st. They left for their homes after successfully completing the quarantine process. 839 Sri Lankans pilgrims who were stranded in several cities in India reached home on March 19th.

The Director-General of Health Services Dr Anil Jasinghe, Additional Secretary on Foreign Relations, Presidential Secretariat Admiral Jayanath Colombage, Specialist Epidemiologist Paba Palihawadana and Director, Medical Research Institute Dr. Jayaruwan Bandara will participate in today’s discussion.

Notably, the Ministry of Foreign Relations which has been handling the repatriation of students and other returnees is not represented at today’s meeting. (Colombo, May 27, 2020)

Reported by Arjuna Ranawana