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Insurance scheme helping Sri Lanka workers

2013 Jun 23

Sri Lanka Consul General Dr. Adambawa Uthumalebbe clarified to Saudi Gazette on Friday that the consulate has helped many legal workers in distress from the insurance scheme, which was implemented by the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) in partnership with the International Social Security Program (ISSP).
Dr. Adambawa was responding to complaints by a few Sri Lankan workers published in a section of the Arabic press that the mission here is refusing to provide them air-tickets. He explained that the SLBFE takes care of the interests of only legal foreign workers.

“The bureau insists on insurance for every legal worker, from which we can claim the ticket money if any Sri Lankan needs it to travel back home,” Dr. Adambawa said, adding, “We have used this recourse for many and have been helpful to all workers who have come for our help.”

An insurance agreement signed in Colombo in March this year covers all legal migrant domestic workers in Saudi Arabia. The insurance scheme not only looks after the workers but their employers as well by covering possible losses incurred in case of wrong doings by the worker.

The consul general said, “We have issued 9,500 out-passes for those who are seeking to leave the country, and are assisting them to get fingerprinted on the allotted day — Monday — so they can proceed on their onward journey.”

“Most of those seeking to exit the Kingdom are runaway and illegal workers, who have come to us just for out-passes so they can leave the country. We are trying our best to complete the process before the end of the grace period, but the authorities here are facing a heavy load and are taking time to complete the process,” he said.

Many of these undocumented workers tell us that they can manage their own tickets, Dr. Adambawa said.

“There, however, is a issue that we cannot resolve. Those seeking to leave the country but have come to Jeddah for that purpose from Riyadh and Dammam, will need to go back to the place of origin,” he said.

“It is not us, but the local passport department that has set this rule that they need to go back to Riyadh or Dammam to get fingerprinted and then leave from there. We are providing them travel documents that would enable them to travel to Riyadh and Dammam by Saptco,” Dr. Adambawa said.

A dozen of Sri Lankan workers are camping out in front of their consulate, seeking to rectify their status before the end of the amnesty, according to an Arabic newspaper.

The newspaper quoted Hussein Ahmad, a driver, as saying that the consulate did not live up to the promise of the Sri Lankan government, which stated earlier that it will provide air-tickets to its citizens who want to leave the Kingdom.

Mohamad Hejazi, another driver, said: “Some of us have been frequenting the consulate for two months trying to convey our suffering to officials, but we haven’t been able to meet anyone. Had it not been for the charity of some people, some of us would have died of hunger while waiting in front of the consulate.”

A long-time Sri Lankan resident of Jeddah told Saudi Gazette that among those camping outside the consulate are many who want new passports and emergency certificates. Many others want “out-passes” to leave the country and go back to Sri Lanka, he said, adding that a large number in this group are domestic helpers.

There are half a million Sri Lankans in Saudi Arabia.

Up till the beginning of this month, more than 14,000 Sri Lankans had registered at the Sri Lankan Embassy in Saudi Arabia to leave the Kingdom or to legalize their status.

Dr. Suhaila Zainul Abideen, member of the National Society for Human Rights, held the Sri Lankan government and its missions in the Kingdom responsible for the suffering of its workers.

She said that the Sri Lankan Embassy should bear the deportation costs for these workers. She also blamed Sri Lankan workers, who gathered in front of the consulate, for not complying with the residency regulations and violating labor laws.

SLBFE Deputy General Manager Mangala Randeniya was quoted as saying by Ceylon Today that around 4,000 workers have negotiated with their present employers and have extended their visas. The number of workers who want to return home has declined, and around 10,000 are at present waiting in Saudi camps, Randeniya said.

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