Sri Lankans who have sought to benefit from the Amnesty declared by the Kuwaiti Government for Sri Lankans who are out of status, will commence repatriation tomorrow.
Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena who had a telephone discussion with his Kuwaiti Counterpart Dr. Ahmad Nasser Al Mohammed Al Sabah today (18 May) agreed that the first batch of returnees, numbering approximately 460, will arrive on two Kuwaiti Airways flights on Tuesday 19 May 2020.
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.
Minister Gunawardena assured his Kuwaiti counterpart that the government of Sri Lanka is committed to facilitate future repatriation of amnesty beneficiaries in Kuwait, consistent with previous practice. However Sri Lanka would require to coordinate it carefully in a manner that is consistent with the availability of space in quarantine centers, which are limited.
Over 38,983 Overseas Sri Lankans (OSLs) in 143 countries at present seek to return home, based on information gathered mainly through the ‘Contact Sri Lanka’ Web Portal of the Ministry of Foreign Relations. This comprises 3,078 students, 4,040 short term visa holders, 27,854 Migrant workers, 3527 dependents and 484 duel citizens and others. Meanwhile since 21 April, up to now, 3600 OSLs have been repatriated from 15 countries, largely comprising foreign students and government officials on training, as well as their dependents.
Recognizing the need to collect data on vulnerable OSLs, the Ministry of Foreign Relations, with the assistance of the Information and Communication Technology Agency (ICTA), on 26 March 2020 created the ‘Contact Sri Lanka’ Web Portal, within a week following closure of the airport to inbound commercial flights. In parallel to the Portal, Sri Lanka Missions were also instructed to collect data on those who wish to return. The two sources, serve as the base for identifying vulnerable groups, prioritizing and repatriation.
The attention of the Ministry is drawn to a quiz titled “Travel quiz: do you know your islands, Man Friday?” published on the web edition of The Guardian newspaper in the United Kingdom on Friday, 15 May 2020. The second question reads -‘Eelam is an indigenous name for which popular holiday island?’
Among the answers to this question, Sri Lanka has been listed as one of the choices and when one selects Sri Lanka as the answer, whilst indicating it as the correct answer, a further description ‘the full name of the island’s recent military insurgency was LTTE – Liberation Tigers for Tamil Eelam’ appears.
The High Commissioner of Sri Lanka in the United Kingdom wrote to the Editor of the Guardian newspaper on the inaccuracy of this information requesting that the content be removed.
Ministry of Foreign Relations
16 May 2020