SL foreign job seekers barred from travelling to UAE, Oman on tourist visa
The Foreign Employment Bureau (SLBFE) has now barred Sri Lankans travelling to Oman and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on tourist visa seeking employment opportunities after information about a human trafficking ring, which had been auctioning off Sri Lankan female domestic workers in these countries, came to light recently.
State Minister of Foreign Employment Promotion Jagath Pushpakumara vowed stern legal actions against those who were involved in this racket.
Meanwhile, the main suspect in this human trafficking ring was arrested by the airport police at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA) in Katunayake yesterday morning (Nov. 19) while returning to the island.
According to the Criminal Investigation Department’s findings, Sri Lankan women who were taken to Oman on the promise of jobs in Oman and the UAE, had been auctioned off to sultans for bids ranging from Rs. 10 million to Rs. 2.5 million.
Initiating a probe after being informed of the complaints received by Foreign Affairs Ministry on the matter, a three-member team of the CID, led by the director of Human Trafficking, Smuggling Investigation and Maritime Crime Investigation Division, had departed to Oman on October 03.
The investigation officers, after recording statements from a total of 45 Sri Lankan women who are sheltered at a safe house belonging to the Sri Lankan Embassy in Muscat, uncovered that they had arrived in Oman on tourist visas. They also found that these women had fled houses they were employed at for various reasons including the harassment.
To make matters worse, an officer of the Sri Lankan Embassy has sexually harassed the women who are sheltered at the safe house. His services have since been suspended.
Further probes into the matter disclosed that this sex trafficking ring had been operated by a group of officers of the Immigration & Emigration Department through the representatives of employment agencies stationed in Sri Lanka and Oman. Their target had been underprivileged local women facing financial difficulties.
The Sri Lankan Embassy in Muscat, in a statement, stated that at present, at least 90 Sri Lankan female domestic workers are stranded in Oman seeking repatriation assistance.
They are unable to afford the repatriation-related expenses such as visa, overstay penalty, air ticket, agent fees, and the cost of recruitment demanded by their respective sponsors.
The embassy said it has also sought the assistance of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to assist such victims.