The Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLFBE) is to open a branch in Nuwara Eliya with a staff capable of providing services in Tamil language within the first week of next year.

Minister of labour and foreign employment Manusha Nanayakkara gave the promise in response to a request made by the children of expatriate workers.

He emphasized the SLBFE is dedicated to providing a prompt and friendly service to every citizen in their mother tongue.

The minister was addressing a celebration held at the SLBFE yesterday (18) to mark International Migrants Day.

He said,

“A large number of people from Nuwara Eliya district go abroad for foreign jobs. They have to come to Colombo, Kandy or Badulla to solve their problems. Even though they have traveled such a distance, the officials in these are not fluent in Tamil.

In the programme I attended this morning, the children who were present described this matter with pain. They actually staged a protest. Among the placards they held, there was a slogan asking for an office of the SLBFE for their area.

I promised those children that, within seven days of January next year, an office of the SLBFE would be established, staffed with Tamil-speaking officers.

Some ask now. Whether it is possible to do this in public service. But we have always done what we have said. We were able to do those things because of this talented staff.

When our staff are given a target like this, they accomplish it very skillfully.

By the day after tomorrow, it will be 19 months since I took up this position. During this time, we were able to bring in 8.1 billion US dollars to this country through foreign workers.

Today there is adequate fuel, no blackouts. As of today, there are medicines in this country. There is milk powder. We have all these because of our migrant workers.

They are the lifeblood of this country. But this lifeline is remembered only when it is difficult to breathe. Until around 2018, not much attention was paid to migrant workers and the money they sent.

Due to the COVID epidemic, expatriate workers could not send money. At that time, the expatriate workers had to face many problems even when booking a flight. When they were sent to the quarantine centers, the hoteliers embezzled them.

Foreign workers were called human bombs. But we established the Hope Gate at the airport to give them due respect. Foreign workers should be welcomed on the red carpet. We manage the economy because the foreign workers send money.

But their baggage is broken open in customs and sometimes the belongings are stolen. Sometimes items are fined separately.

Illegal things are also smuggled to this country through customs. A lot of illegal drugs and alcohol are coming to Sri Lanka. But the bottle of soju brought by our guys from Korea is fined. That is how the migrant worker is treated.

We were careful when we made the TV commercial asking the foreign workers to send 500 million dollars on behalf of the people of the country. We did not take money from the government to make that advertisement. They were made by foreign employment agents and my friends.

Auditors could have asked why a short video cost so much because that’s how audit people work. The message does not matter to them. The success of this does not matter to them. To calculate how much a video costs, they divide the hourly amount by the number of seconds. That is why we did this without spending government money.

Our workers sent the amount we asked for. Now that the work is done and the expatriate workers are being forgotten. Some people shout hoarse in the parliamentary committees and argue that there is no need to give special privileges to foreign workers because there is no dollar problem now. What a hypocritical argument is this?

We face many problems when we try to facilitate the expatriate workers. Many people don’t know about it. That’s why they curse us on social media. But we shall do what is necessary to be done.

We are concluding the difficult period people of the country will face problems. In a few months, this country will become a country with a good system.

We allowed expatriate workers to bring electric vehicles depending on the amount of money they send to this country. The detractors talked about the vehicles brought by one company rather than the amount of money that came to the country. These are the problems our government institutions are facing. That’s why we are facing hardships.

The Cabinet and the President issued a gazette giving permission to give tax relief on the amount of money they bring. But the customs have not yet given that relief.

We have worked. But there are difficulties. We will name those who do not allow this to be done and publicly shame them.

We worked to regulate the field of foreign employment. That’s why we canceled 400 licenses of agencies for malpractices last year alone. And more than 200 have been banned outright. Our investigation department conducts raids at least three to four places a day and takes legal action. But the media does not properly report them.

Also, we are working to improve the quality of agencies as well as worker education. Arrangements have been made to increase license fees. I saw on social media that it costs Rs. 2.5 million to go to Japan. No need to give money to go to Japan. Some say that they needed to give money to go to Israel.

If anyone has given money please tell me. You won’t have a problem. You don’t have to pay anyone to go to foreign employment. Don’t fall prey to the lies.

If we get information that anyone has gone to Israel after giving money, we will work to bring them back because we have reached an agreement with that government. Here, only official fees related to the state should be paid.

We also implement special programmes at the airport to stop people going for foreign employment on visit visas. One environmental professor questioned how Manusha will stop people going on visit visas.

The people of this country become so miserable after going for foreign employment on visit visas. But it is important for some people to blame someone on media. With the drafting of amendments to the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment Act, it has been possible to stop illegal work. There, we have already planned the privileges for the expatriate workers and those eligible can even become members of the Board of SLBFE.”


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