Sri Lanka has called for greater regional and global efforts to address migrant health. Speaking at an Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants at the United Nations in Geneva, Ms Dayani Mendis, the Acting Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka said that the contribution of migrant workers to economic growth and development is increasingly becoming critical not only for their own countries, but also as a catalyst for the upward socio-economic mobility in the region and internationally.
“We believe that the COVID-19 crisis taught the world that coordinated and concerted efforts are needed to ensure that migrant health is addressed without discrimination throughout the migration cycle. A further consequence of Covid-19 has been the shrinking of the employment market, which could lead to a serious shortfall in the numbers of migrant workers who will leave for work this year and in turn a drop in worker remittances,” she said.
Mendis said that during the heights of the COVID-19 pandemic, while approximately 1.5 million migrant workers from Sri Lanka were overseas, the Government of Sri Lanka accorded high priority towards addressing their concerns, providing food and medicines where required, and where possible, working with host countries to obtain legitimization of their status and medical facilities including testing for Covid-19.
In addition, she said that with use of a web portal ‘Contact Sri Lanka’ created to guide and provide information and to assist in emergencies, over 13,000 questions posed by Overseas Sri Lankans (OSLs) were answered by a dedicated team, ensuring the wellbeing of the migrant workers spread over 120 countries.
She also said that notwithstanding the challenges it entailed both in terms of the logistics of movement and on the capacities on quarantine to the Government, as of 06 July 2020, of 14,006 Sri Lankans evacuated on repatriation flights over a period of approximately 2 months, 5125 (36.59%) were migrant workers.
“As we speak, Sri Lanka has sent at least one repatriation flight to almost all the destinations which have a large migrant worker presence, with multiple flights to Male, Dubai, Qatar, Dhaka and Singapore. Sri Lanka is also in the process of expediting the return of a near 40,000 migrant workers who have lost their jobs,” she said