May 09, 2020

Over 100,000 migrant workers at risk of losing jobs Featured

Over 100,000 Sri Lankan migrant workers are at risk of losing their jobs due to the Covid-19 crisis.

Violating contractual conditions while abandoning work stations, those who were employed illegally being unable to return to their jobs, expiration of the contracts and layoffs by companies in the face of the crisis, employers opting for cheaper labour than Sri Lankan workers are said to be several reasons for this.

With the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, many migrant workers returned to Sri Lanka.

However, many who had arrived before the pandemic wave, with the intention of returning to their jobs have been informed by their employers not to return until further notice.

Workers have also been informed that certain companies have been closed down.

Every year, over 200,000 migrant workers leave Sri Lanka for employment. Accordingly the number of migrant workers in 2018 and 2019 have stood at 211,229 and 203,141 respectively.

The number of migrant workers is currently 1.7 million and most of them have left for jobs such as welders, plumbers or as domestic help.

Furthermore, 90,000 have left the country as skilled labourers.

The above situation has affected all those those except for those working as domestic help.

Assess before requesting to return - Ravinatha
Meanwhile, speaking at a TV programme on state owned SLRC, Foreign Relations Ministry Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha requested the Sri Lankans abroad to make an objective assessment of their circumstances before requesting to return to Sri Lanka.

"There is also a category of about 3000 people out there who are there on short term visits and stuck, they don’t have that choice, they have to come back home, and we are trying to draw them also in to the present movements, to the extent possible, probably with the hotels being used for quarantine, which are also now getting filled up. But to those who have a choice, my advice has all along been to make an objective assessment of one’s circumstances. Somebody who is, say in a country where universities are functioning and the term not over, might lose out education wise if that person tries to move around. The same way somebody who is in a job whether in the Middle East or any country, blue collar or white collar, at this point when you come back, you might not be able to return to that job because those countries are also cutting back and everybody is scaling down, and so is the case in Sri Lanka. But if you don’t have a job already, then I can see the logic, but I think it is important that people out there understand that when you come back to Sri Lanka too finding jobs won’t be easy," he said.

Ariyasinghe had further stated : Although there are 1,000 workers each in Kuwait and in Jordan who are waiting to return back, around half of them are unable to do so as they are reported to be illegal migrants.The Minister of Foreign Relations and Foreign Employment, Dinesh Gunawardena has had a discussion with the Sri Lankan Ambassador in Kuwait and a positive response is expected this week.

"Those who insist on coming back, we will prioritize in an objective way. Not by looking at faces or connections, but by looking at the real necessity of their repatriation at this point and our capacity to bring them and quarantine them, so that they are not a danger to those in the country and they don’t unnecessarily expose themselves to danger on the way in to the country," he had further said.