Thirty four families of deceased migrant workers in the Middle East were given compensation and salary dues by the Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Dr. Harsha de Silva on 17th February 2016 at the Foreign Ministry. A total of Sri Lankan Rupees 57 million was awarded to the family members. This was the first awarding ceremony held at the ministry this year. These payments were secured in consultation with the Sri Lanka Missions in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, and Jordan. Last year, the Foreign Ministry disbursed a total of Sri Lanka Rupees 210 million as compensation and salary dues to 143 families. A portion of these funds were made available after litigations were filed in the relevant courts. In case of harassment and injuries, the Missions had obtained relevant payments from the sponsors directly. The beneficiaries were from all parts of the country, mainly from rural areas. The Foreign Ministry together with Sri Lanka Missions abroad negotiated with the authorities of the countries concerned to obtain these compensation payments for the migrant workers. Acting Foreign Minister Dr. Harsha de Silva addressing the families of deceased migrant workers stated that even though the lives of their family members who died were ‘priceless’, the financial compensation was being awarded with the hope that it would help the families.
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However, he observed that the Government is able to financially compensate only those who found employment through legal means. The Acting Minister promised stern legal action against unscrupulous agents who continue to defraud innocent Sri Lankan workers by taking them aboard through illegal means causing a number of them to face numerous difficulties, including harassment, being stranded and imprisoned.
The Acting Minister stated that Sri Lankans seek employment abroad to improve their economic circumstances. The remittances they send back to Sri Lanka immensely help the local economy. The Minister added that the Government of Sri Lanka was doing everything possible, including resorting to legal action, to ease the difficulties faced by Sri Lankan workers aboard. Dr. de Silva cited the recent change in the stoning verdict against a Sri Lankan woman in Saudi Arabia as a successful example of an intervention where the Government resorted to all possible avenues to protect the life of a citizen. Such cases were often protracted and complex as legal and regulatory systems varied from country to country. The Acting Minister observed that Sri Lanka should explore all possible avenues to increase local employment and reduce the number of Sri Lankans going abroad.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
17th February 2016