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Sri Lanka joins deal to protect migrant workers in Middle East

COLOMBO, Nov 30, 2014 (EconomyNext) – Sri Lanka has joined initiatives to improve protection and conditions of millions of foreign workers in the Gulf whose remittances help shore up the island’s foreign reserves and balance of payments.

The initiatives were agreed upon at the Third Ministerial Consultative Meeting of the Abu Dhabi Dialogue (ADD) comprising Asian countries sending and receiving labour, which concluded in Kuwait last week.

"We resolve to work together to prevent and sanction exploitative recruitment practices that place workers at great risk and undermine fundamental rights," the ‘Kuwait Declaration’ noted.

Sri Lanka is one of the countries in Asia highly dependent on migrant worker remittances which a recent Fitch Ratings report said "have spectacularly risen over the past 10 years."

The relatively stable character of remittances generally strengthens a country’s external balances, Fitch Ratings said, noting that inflows have particularly increased in India and China and are strong in countries like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh relative to their economies.

Sri Lanka’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva Ravinatha Aryasinha who told the Kuwait meeting there was scope for co-operation between the ADD and the Colombo Process, a grouping of Asian labour sending countries chaired by Sri Lanka.

One area was particularly in evolving a ‘qualification recognition process’, where the support of the labour receiving countries was pivotal towards its implementation, Aryasinha was quoted as saying in a statement.

In a message to the meeting, Minister of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare Dilan Perera called for the introduction of a standard employment contract for domestic sector workers in Gulf countries.

A contract which the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has agreed with Sri Lanka and the Philippines could be adopted, he suggested.

Sri Lankan workers’ remittances stood at five billion US dollars for the first nine months of 2014, up 9.1 percent from a year ago, dwarfing the 1.6 billion dollars earned from tourism in the same period.
 

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