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Thousands of Sri Lankans in Kuwait appeal for help as two flights prepare to bring the first batches home

ECONOMYNEXT- Sri Lankan workers in the Middle East who play a vital role in providing foreign exchange to the country are appealing for help to come back to their homes and families in Sri Lanka during this crisis.

This happens as two Kuwaiti sponsored flights prepare to bring the first two batches of Lankan workers home.

Around 19,000 Sri Lankans employed in Kuwait have registered with ‘Contact Sri Lanka’ the portal launch by the Ministry of Foreign Relations to help the Sri Lankans abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A total of 14,850 confirmed cases of COVID-19 has been reported from Kuwait so far with 112 deaths and 4,093 recoveries.

General Secretary of the Organisation of Protecting Sri Lankan Expatriates Rights Subashana Subawickrama in a live video released through Facebook said that he is receiving many complaints from the Sri Lankans in Kuwait about the Embassy in Kuwait being unresponsive to their calls.

He also said that his organisation is collecting the information about the stranded Sri Lankan workers in Kuwait who have no means of getting help to demand that the embassy provide them with the required facilities.

Subawickrama also said that the organisation will always try their best to compel the authorities in Sri Lanka to help all the stranded workers in the middle east.

Below are some of the post and comments from the Sri Lankans in Kuwait Facebook group,

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Meanwhile, Kuwait Airways the national carrier of the State of Kuwait will operate two flights to bring migrant workers stranded in Kuwait to Colombo tomorrow with a Boeing 777-300 & Airbus 330-200.  

Accordingly, the Foreign Ministry in a statement said that Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena who had a telephone discussion with his Kuwaiti Counterpart Dr Ahmad Nasser Al Mohammed Al Sabah today agreed that the first batch of returnees, numbering approximately 460, will arrive on two Kuwaiti Airways flights on May 19.

The Foreign Minister also said in consultation with the immigration authorities, the Sri Lanka Embassy in Kuwait will verify and issue emergency travel documents to those Sri Lankan nationals who will qualify for the Amnesty when the Kuwaiti government reopens for them to register.

The general Amnesty enables those out of status to leave with no consequences, and also to return to Kuwait for work in a legal manner.

The statement also said that the Kuwaiti government is currently providing healthcare facilities for over 100,000 Sri Lankans presently working in Kuwait.

It was also noted that the planes carrying the beneficiaries of the amnesty from Kuwait, will be taking back Sri Lankan exports to Kuwait.

Earlier last month, Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Relations Ravinatha Aryasinha that COVID-19 spread in middle east countries has led to increased cases of unemployment, loss of contracts, non-extension of work permits, and halting of temporary freelance work, which has left sections of these workers in need of urgent assistance to maintain their basic living conditions and also to ensure that their families back home are assisted where possible. 

Meanwhile, he also told state television on May 16 migrant workers as well as students and parents, to carefully calibrate the effect repatriation at this time could have on their jobs and education, before making decisions to seek to return to Sri Lanka, availing thmselves of the limited flights being operated by the Government for those facing compelling circumstances. 

 Aryasinha said that the priority is to repatriate the migrant workers who have lost their jobs, “Because they have gone out of status and are illegal, they also do not have access to the health facilities and anything else in those countries. There are many who have been thrown out of jobs. They are pretty much destitute” the Secretary said. (Colombo/May18/2020)