Minister unveils SLBFE office to serve expatriate workers in Tamil, stresses commitment to migrant welfare and economic contributions
Colombo (LNW): Minister of Labour and Foreign Employment, Manusha Nanayakkara, has announced plans to open a Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) branch in Nuwara Eliya in response to requests from the children of expatriate workers.
This office, set to open in the first week of the upcoming year, will provide services in Tamil.
During an event marking International Migrants Day, the Minister emphasised SLBFE’s commitment to efficient service in citizens’ native languages.
Minister Nanayakkara addressed concerns raised by Nuwara Eliya residents who face challenges traveling to distant locations for issue resolution due to officials’ lack of Tamil fluency. In response, he pledged the establishment of the Nuwara Eliya SLBFE office within seven days of January next year, staffed with Tamil-speaking officers.
The Minister highlighted the vital role of migrant workers in contributing US $8.1 billion to the country’s economy over his 19-month tenure. He addressed challenges faced by expatriate workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, emphasising the government’s efforts to improve their treatment, including initiatives like the Hope Gate at the airport.
While celebrating the success of a recent campaign urging expatriate workers to contribute to the nation, Nanayakkara expressed disappointment at the subsequent neglect of their contributions.
He addressed critiques against providing special privileges to foreign workers, emphasising the government’s commitment to overcoming challenges and building a robust system.
The Minister discussed issues related to expatriate workers, such as bureaucratic delays in implementing tax relief for electric vehicles and challenges in regulating foreign employment practices.
He highlighted actions taken against agencies engaging in malpractices and underscored the need to dispel misinformation about foreign employment expenses. The Minister also encouraged reporting instances of financial exploitation, assuring protection.
Airport programmes aimed at preventing individuals from traveling for foreign employment on visit visas were mentioned, along with amendments to the SLBFE Act to curtail illegal activities. The Minister outlined plans to extend privileges to expatriate workers, potentially allowing them to become SLBFE Board members.