Protecting Sri Lankans Abroad
The Foreign Ministry seeks to ensure the welfare of expatriate Sri Lankans through its network of Missions, Consulates and Honorary Consulates abroad. The Sri Lankan expatriate labour force, the larger part of which is in the Middle East, is estimated to be around 700,000.
In the face of labour problems, broadly falling into the categories of non-payment of wages and harassment of workers by employers, Sri Lanka Missions have taken remedial action within the limited resources available, and in collaboration with the Ministry of Labour and Welfare and the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment, are exploring further measures to help Sri Lankans who get stranded and fall into difficulty. Commencing November 1997, a new recruitment procedure was introduced by Sri Lanka for those going abroad for employment. Then Deputy Foreign Minister, Lakshman Kiriella who visited Kuwait, Jordan and the UAE in October 1997 held consultations with these countries regarding the new scheme, and was assured of full cooperation in its implementation by these governments.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also successfully intervened in the perennial problems of fishing boats drifting into neighboring waters. While the incidence of such happenings has been greatly minimized with respect to the Maldives, particularly since the beginning of 1997, a more streamlined process of communications has been established by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to deal with this problem with respect to India.
The Consular Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has set up a system whereby the families of Sri Lankan migrant workers, who have been registered with the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment, could be traced.