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Thursday, October 28, 2021

Sri Lanka to ban runaways in Qatar from working in other Gulf countries

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Sri Lanka is set to ban nationals who are found working illegally in Qatar from seeking work in other countries in the region, reports the Peninsula. 

The news comes amid a continued crackdown on illegal workers in Qatar, which last week saw the Ministry of Interior round up 178 absconded employees and the groups that were sheltering them. 

An unnamed Sri Lankan embassy official has told the newspaper that from now on, they will send personal details and fingerprints of all nationals found working here illegally to the Sri Lankan Foreign Employment Bureau in Colombo. 

All Sri Lankans who apply to work overseas are required to do so via the Bureau, so this move effectively bans illegal workers from seeking employment in other Gulf countries. 

“Illegal workers are an increasing problem,” the official told the Peninsula. “We receive considerable numbers of men and women who have run away from their employers and worked outside. Their actions affect the credibility of Sri Lankan workers, so we have to take strict action.”

Seeking refuge

A ban will only apply to those who run away from their employers in Qatar and then choose to work illegally here, the embassy says.

It’s keen to point out that it will not be applied to those who seek refuge having suffered abuse, or those in dispute with their employers over pay and working conditions. These people should report immediately to the embassy, and they will receive help to get them home, the official said.

The ban will not  be able to control those who find work through unofficial channels. Many Sri Lankan workers come to Qatar on visit visas, only later converting these to work permits, meaning that the Sri Lankan government has no record of them, and does not know who they are working for. 

Runaways 

The embassy receives around five Sri Lankan runaways a day, the newspaper states, adding that most of these seek refuge because their salaries haven’t been paid, and due to poor working conditions. 

Last summer, 10 Sri Lankan workers flew home after their embassy intervened in a row with their sponsor which had left them with no pay for two months.

WMV Wansekra, Labour & Welfare officer at the Sri Lankan Embassy said that many Sri Lankan nationals land themselves in trouble because they do not apply for jobs through the official Foreign Employment bureau:

“Such incidents take place because some workers do not come through proper channels. They seek help of private agencies to get free visas due to their ignorance, which sometimes lands them in trouble.”

Around 150,000 Sri Lankans are currently working in Qatar.

Doha News has contacted the Sri Lankan Embassy, but has yet to receive a response.

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Credit: Photo by Richard Messenger

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