June 06, Colombo: The government of Lebanon has agreed to conduct free PCR tests for Sri Lankans seeking to be repatriated, the Ministry of Foreign Relations said.
In line with the Sri Lanka policy on repatriating Sri Lankans overseas, Ambassador Shani Calyaneratne Karunaratne had discussions with the Lebanese Minister of Labor, Lamia Yammine at the Labor Ministry premises in Beirut 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 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 tests on a free of charge basis enabling the Embassy to prepare for the returnees to leave.
The Ambassador also requested clearance for exit visa for the list of persons already submitted to the Directorate of General Security (Immigration Department) and also requested the intervention of the Labor Ministry for an exemption of penalties.
The Minister agreed to look in to the requests and inquired about the 24 hour telephone hot lines maintained by the Embassy. She also added that the workers could contact the Lebanese Labor Ministry.
Subsequently, the same day, the Labor 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 is 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 Labor 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.