The Government of Lebanon has agreed to conduct free PCR tests for Sri Lankans seeking to be repatriated. In line with the Sri Lanka policy on repatriating Sri Lankans overseas, Ambassador Shani Calyaneratne Karunaratne had discussions with the Lebanese Minister of Labour, Madame Lamia Yammine at the Labour Ministry premises on 01 June 2020.
Among matters discussed were the COVID-19 outbreak and the Sri Lankan migrant workers, the economic crisis in Lebanon, the non-availability of work for undocumented workers, unpaid salaries and health issues of migrant workers. They further discussed the temporary measures are taken by the Embassy to cushion the shock faced by the workers by distributing food rations to the neediest spread across Lebanon.
Ambassador requested assistance from Lebanon to conduct the PCR test on a free of charge basis enabling the Embassy to prepare for the returnees to leave. The Minister requested the list of persons already submitted to the Directorate of General Security (Immigration Department) for clearance for exit visas and also requested the intervention of the Labour Ministry for an exemption for penalties. The Minister agreed to look into the requests and inquired about the 24-hour telephone hotlines maintained by the Embassy. She also added that the workers could contact the Lebanese Labour Ministry.
Subsequently, the same day, the Labour Ministry informed the Embassy that the PCR test will be done for the Sri Lankan migrant workers for a nominal fee of US $ 20/- instead of US $ 100/- per person if they are returning and on the 4th of June 2020, in the announcement of Cabinet decisions it was announced that Lebanon will waive the US $ 20/- and it will be done free of charge as requested by the Embassy. As the numbers on the list of returnees are growing, the Lebanese decision saves a sizeable amount of funds to the Government of Sri Lanka.
Ambassador and the Minister also discussed the pending MOU on migrant Labour from Sri Lanka and the Unified contract, minimum wage and the worker’s rights.
Counsellor (E&W) of the Embassy P.K.T Hettiarachchi and Head of the Department of International Affairs of the Ministry Denise Dahrouj also attended the meeting. (Colombo Gazette)