Foreign Ministry takes stock of action by Sri Lanka Missions abroad to ensure the welfare of Overseas Sri Lankans (OSL)

3 April 2020

The Ministry of Foreign Relations, sensitive to the concerns of the OSLs amidst the rapid spread of the COVID-19 and the inability to return to Sri Lanka, has held consultations over the past 2 days with its Heads of Missions based in 67 cities across the world, to facilitate the wellbeing and safety of Overseas Sri Lankans, while preparing for any exigencies they could have to meet in the coming days.

In a series of tele-conferences led by Foreign Secretary Ravinatha Aryasinha with Heads of Mission/Post in 5 regional clusters (South Asia, Middle East, South East Asia & East Asia, Africa & Latin America, as well as North America & Europe), issues that demanded attention in respect of Overseas Sri Lankans were discussed, in keeping with the Government’s policy directives, on the COVID -19 pandemic. The focal point of the Foreign Ministry on COVID -19 Action and DG/East Asia Mr. Kandeepan Balasubramaniam, Additional Secretaries, respective territorial DGs and relevant functional DGs of the Ministry were associated in the discussions. The Acting General Manager of the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE), W.M.V. Wansekara, also attended some of the consultations which focused on Sri Lankan migrant receiving countries.

Overall, all Sri Lanka Missions, even though mostly in ‘work from home’ mode, have been constantly interacting with the student communities and the migrant workers in their respective stations and have established 24-hour emergency hotlines providing easy access to the Mission staff. While the Missions are in the process of updating databases of Sri Lankans in their respective stations, social media platforms are also being used to maintain and enhance links by which information could be shared. The Sri Lanka Missions in these regions have assured the community members and students studying overseas that requests for return of Sri Lankans will be considered once the spread of the virus is contained in the country.

Sri Lanka Missions in the Middle East, as well as South East Asia, East Asia, Africa and Southern Europe, which host the largest concentration of Sri Lankan expatriate workers, informed of their efforts to constantly network with Sri Lankans overseas and the community representatives, assisting them in matters concerning emergency passports, visa extensions, and employment contracts, by discussing with the respective local authorities and intervening and seeking clearances, as required.

Highlighting  the need to assist this important  segment  of migrant  labour, one of largest contributors  to  Sri Lanka’s  foreign  exchange, the Ministry stressed that  the Missions and the SLBFE should  also look after and facilitate the well-being of Sri Lankans without valid  visas, unemployed  and  also  those not registered with the SLBFE. It was noted that some Sri Lanka Missions have  liaised  with local  charities that support  people  who  are  unemployed, recruiting agencies,  other community organizations, International organizations such as IOM and Caritas, to render assistance to Sri Lankans until such time they  can  be  safely  repatriated   back   to  Sri Lanka. The declaration of amnesty periods by some  Middle  Eastern countries  and  the ramifications of such action, were also discussed during the tele conferences.   

With respect to Sri Lankan students enrolled across the globe, most Missions, including those in the West, reported having close contact with the University administrations and the students communities, to make certain that the students have continued access to their accommodation in hostels, access to food and medical facilities.

The Missions have also been striving to secure visa extensions for students, as well as others residents and those visiting abroad, whose visas are lapsing. This concession was granted for over 15,000 foreigners visiting Sri Lanka  until 12  May, due to reasons caused by the pandemic.

On the economic front, the Ministry, through its Mission network, in collaboration with the Export Development Board (EDB) is in the process of facilitating Sri Lankan exporters at this volatile time period to re-position themselves in the long run. In this respect, the Missions network assists the EDB to obtain market information as well as address issues relevant to supply side constraints in our key export sourcing countries.  This also includes seeking new opportunities for Sri Lanka for existing products, as well as requirements related to the COVID 19 situation.

The Ministry also took note of the positive action by some Missions in collaborating with the Sri Lankan Health authorities, to coordinate procurement of medicines and medical equipment urgently needed on a Government to Government basis. Missions were further requested to look for opportunities to obtain test kits and necessary medical equipment in consultation with the Ministry of Health, to help mitigate the spread of the virus in Sri Lanka.

Meanwhile, the new ‘Contact Sri Lanka’ online Web Portal launched by the Ministry of Foreign Relations on 26 March 2020, has to date seen 45,770 Sri Lankans living abroad register, a bulk of them from the Middle East. It is noteworthy that 1955 queries have also been directed to the portal, and been answered. The Portal is a direct interface for all Overseas Sri Lankans to voice their views and concerns to the Ministry and the Missions, and has been jointly created by the Foreign Ministry and Information & Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA). The web link is hosted on the Ministry web page www.mfa.gov.lk and also can be accessed at www.contactsrilanka.mfa.gov.lk.

 

Ministry of Foreign Relations

Colombo

                   

2 April 2020

Extension of Visas for the Foreigners in Sri Lanka - Press Release II

This is further to the previous notice released by the Department of Immigration and Emigration on 17.03.2020 with regard to the extension of visas for the Foreigners residing in Sri Lanka.

Accordingly, the validity period of all types of Visas had been extended for a period of 30 days with effect from 14th March 2020 to 12th April 2020.

Having considered the spread of Covid-19 virus in the country, it has been decided to further extend the validity period of all types of Visas issued to all foreigners who are currently residing in Sri Lanka from another 30 days.

Hence, you are kindly requested to proceed as advised below.

  1. The validity period of all types of Visas will be extended till 12th May 2020.
  2. The procedure to pay the relevant visa fee and to get the visa endorsed in the Passport will be informed to you later. Hence, you are hereby informed to refrain from visiting the Visa Division of the Department of Immigration and Emigration as mentioned in the previous notice.
  3. If you intend to leave the island during the aforementioned period; your journey will be facilitated by paying the relevant visa fee at the Airport without any penalty.
  4. The validity period of the Acknowledgements issued for the applications already submitted to the Department of Immigration and Emigration to obtain visas, will also be extended for another period of 30 days; till 12th May 2020. If you intend to leave the country during the given period, a request to obtain your passport along with a scan copy of the Acknowledgement and the flight ticket should be sent to the following email addresses. Necessary advises in this regard, will be communicated to you accordingly via the same channel.

 

For Inquiry: 0771588724

This notice has been issued as per the instructions of the Controller General of Immigration and Emigration.

 

Link: http://www.immigration.gov.lk/web/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=342&lang=en

 

 

 

COVID – 19 Fund increases further

With direct deposits and donations from organizations and individual donors the COVID – 19 Healthcare and Social Security Fund’s balance surpasses Rs. 242 million.

President Gotabaya Rajapaksa established this Fund on March 23.

The Fund’s balance reached Rs.145 million as at 8.00 a.m. today with the Rs.9.5 million direct deposits to the Bank and Rs. 500,000 donation from the Presidential Secretariat.

The balance surpassed Rs. 242 million with contributions of Rs.10 million by the Financial Management Accounts Department of the People's Bank, Rs.03 million by People's Bank Pensioners Association, Rs 5 million each by People's Leasing, Litro Gas Lanka Limited, Sri Lanka Insurance Corporation and Bank of Ceylon, Rs 8 million by The National Savings Bank and Rs.50 million by Akbar Brothers Pvt Ltd.

A special account had been opened at the Corporate Branch of the Bank of Ceylon under the account number of 85737373. Local as well as foreign donors have made their contributions to the Fund. Donations to COVID – 19 Healthcare and Social Security Fund have been exempted from taxes and foreign exchange regulations. Deposits can be made through cheques or telegraphic transfers.

Further details can be obtained from Mr. K.B. Egodawela, Director General (Administration) through 0112354354.

 

 

Mohan Karunarathne Deputy Director

President’s Media Division

 

2020.03.31

 

 

Sri Lanka Missions in South Asia work towards ensuring safety of Sri Lankan expatriates in the region

The Sri Lanka Missions in South Asia, in collaboration with the Foreign Ministry, have been closely engaging with the Sri Lankan communities overseas and are working towards assisting and facilitating the many Sri Lankan expatriates in the region in the wake of the COVID-19 epidemic. Mission wise, databases of Sri Lankan students and other expatriates are being compiled by the Missions with a view to keeping in close contact and ensuring their welfare at all times. 

The Government of Sri Lanka with its recent announcement requesting all Sri Lankan expatriates to remain in their current locations until the risk of COVID-19 is minimized, has further assured that requests for return of Sri Lankans will be considered once the spread of the virus is contained in the country. 

Meanwhile the Sri Lanka Missions in New Delhi, Chennai, Mumbai, Kathmandu, Islamabad, Dhaka,  Kabul and Malé have established ‘hotlines’ and social media groups and have been networking with Sri Lankans overseas and community organizations and representatives assisting them to stay in their current locations in a safe environment, in compliance with local regulations and also to ensure that those Sri Lankans in different locations have access to food and other necessities. 

Missions have also been coordinating and discussing with the respective authorities and have also intervened and sought clearances for visa extensions, as required. Certain Missions have also been liaising with local health authorities in preparing COVID-I9 awareness messages in Sinhala language for circulation of messages to the community via mobile devices. With forecasted lockdowns in certain stations, these Missions have taken necessary steps to set up sub-offices at the residences of Diplomatic Staff, to work from home and continue the services to the community. 

To ensure that the large numbers of Sri Lankan students enrolled in universities in these countries have continued access to hostel, canteen and medical facilities, the Sri Lanka Missions have been liaising with the respective academic institutions and continue to maintain constant dialogue with student groups. The Missions have also been in discussion with University Vice Chancellors, Registrars, Deans and other educational institutions to facilitate students by rescheduling their vacations and exams. Discussions are also being held in ensuring the stipends reach the scholars uninterrupted. 

From a regional perspective, in its efforts to combat COVID-19, SAARC leaders recently agreed on the establishment of the SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund with voluntary contributions of the member countries, which includes Sri Lanka’s pledge of US$ 5 million. 

Further, in strengthening Sri Lanka’s medical services and to ensure the uninterrupted supply of medicine and preparedness in view of the current public health emergency, the Foreign Ministry has already bilaterally sought the support and assistance from South Asian countries to assist in obtaining pharmaceutical items and medical equipment on a G-to-G purchasing scheme, considering the present emergency situation.

As an additional measure enabling the Government of Sri Lanka to reach out worldwide and provide assistance during emergencies such as the COVID19 outbreak, the Foreign Ministry has invited all Lankans overseas to register on the online web portal "Contact Sri Lanka" jointly created by the Foreign Ministry and Information & Communication Technology Agency of Sri Lanka (ICTA). The portal was launched last week by the Ministry.

 

Ministry of Foreign Relations

Colombo

 

31 March 2020

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