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ECONOMYNEXT – Migrant workers who are leaving for foreign jobs without registering or on visit visas are at higher risk of getting into trouble officials said, as sex-trafficking ring in Oman involving young women from Sri Lanka was uncovered.

D D P Senanayaka, General Manager of the Foreign Employment Bureau (SLBEF) said, the authorities can track the wellbeing of the locals going for foreign employment who registered with the bureau.

“We have observed that these people who are in trouble have gone to these countries through informal ways rather than following the legal procedures, which could have given them the protection,” Senanayaka told reporters on Monday.

“These people have no assurance of a job when they go.”

Locals that go abroad by registering with the SLBEF, can be monitored throughout their contract period, but there are no records to track down the Sri Lankans going through informal methods.

Since early 2022, as the country fell into the worst currency crisis in the history of the island’s intermediate regime central bank, many are trying to leave the country for foreign jobs.

Sri Lanka is also encouraging state sector employees and the general public to acquire skills to get qualified for foreign jobs, in hopes of increasing the foreign remittances.

Senanayaka said they have now identified thousands of Sri Lankans who have left on visit visas in the hope of getting jobs.

A minister recently said about 5,000 persons had travelled to Dubai on visit visas.

“We identified 13,231 who went abroad with tourist visas this year and from that more than 700 were prevented from going after identifying they have given false information,” Senananyaka

“We have taken information’s from these people, and we are monitoring them collaborating with immigration department.”

It is not clear how authorities can stop a person from leaving on a visit visa as Sri Lanka is signatory to UN conventions on free movement of people and there is no requirement for an exit visa unlike some ‘iron curtain’ nations in the past.

Meanwhile, complaints have received from Sri Lankans in Oman, sex trafficking of young women.

An employee of the SLBEF was also arrested in Muscat, Oman accused of mis-treating or abusing women in a shelter that is being maintained under the embassy.

Senananyaka said, currently 77 women are in this facility under the protection of the embassy.

“Normally this is for the employees that registered with the SLBEF, however 12 of the 77 people that is currently in the facility has gone illegally, however since they are Sri Lankans we have taken them in until the matters are being solved,” Senanayaka said.

According to authorities 19,000 Sri Lankans are currently working in Oman. (Colombo/ Nov 21/2022)

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