Overseas Sri Lankans taken more seriously and treated with more respect.
Posted on May 25th, 2011

Mobisher Rabbani

The Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) is the foremost organization looking after the welfare aspects of Sri LankaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s migrant workers and their families that deals with foreign employment. Its mandate encompasses promotion and protection of migrants by setting standards and approving or rejecting the contracts provided by foreign employers to Sri Lankan migrants, licensing recruiting agents, and operating programs to protect Sri Lankan migrants and their families.

Today, the SLBFE is a public corporation with over 800 employees in seven major departments and is governed by a Board of Directors. The Bureau also has 24 branches throughout the country and receives its power, duties and obligations from the Act of Foreign Employment. SLBFE is lead by a very hardworking and dedicated Minister Hon. Dilan Perera.

Minister Hon. Dilan Perera recently made a whirlpool public relations visit to three very important Gulf States Qatar, UAE and Saudi Arabia. With a very clear mission of the welfare of overseas Sri Lankans, employment promotion and most important image building of Sri Lanka as a land of rich potential and human resources.

In Qatar he paid a surprise visit to labour camps to check the living conditions of the workers. The purpose of the visit to the labour lodgings was to see first hand how his low income compatriots worked and lived. A vast majority of the Sri Lankan workforce in Qatar is low income and concentrated in the unorganized construction sector. Rough estimates put the number of Sri Lankan workers in Qatar at around 100,000. He found some labour camps in a bad state although he was satisfied with facilities in a majority of them. He didnƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢t like two labour lodgings and asked embassy officials to take up the issue with authorities

Speaking at the Doha Forum he discussed how Sri Lanka is also paying more attention to cater to the needs of manpower in Qatar for all its projects aimed at the FIFA 2022 World Cup and 2030 Vision, especially to share skilled employees in building stadiums, with Sri LankaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s recent experience of building three new internationalƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ stadiums. ƒÆ’-¡ƒ”š‚ Qatari media reported his visit where The Peninsula Qatar wrote ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”Sri Lanka seeks more jobs for skilled workersƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ and the Gulf Times wrote ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”Lankan minister briefed on problems of expatsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢. He also held talks with Qatari Minister of State for Interior Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa al-Thani.

His second and most important stop was the United Arab Emirates which is home to 250,000 Sri Lankans engaged in various professions, he held seminars both in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. He said his government’s new focus on the skilled sector was part of a plan to change perceptions about the country a vision laid by President Mahinda Rajapaksa when he himself was Minister of Labour under the theme, ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”Migration with dignityƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢. ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-An innovative mechanism is currently being developed in Sri Lanka to implement job-specific, country-specific and company-specific training programmes for the citizens, who seek foreign opportunities,ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ he said

Speaking at the seminar, Sarath Wijesinghe, Ambassador of Sri Lanka in the UAE, announced an education project for the working Sri Lankans in the UAE. ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-The UAEƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s Sri Lankan employees with a minimum of managerial experience are offered a global standard two-year long management education programme through a cost-effective distance learning scheme from Open University of Sri Lanka, under the direct supervision of the mission,ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ he said.

The events were attended by officials from the Ministry of Foreign affairs, Ministry of Labour, Diplomats, heads of recruitment agencies in the UAE, prominent businessmen, members of the community and various other dignitaries. Meeting with the Overseas Pakistanis & Sri Lankans Society the Minister applauded the idea of brining Pakistanis & Sri Lankans together globally, he pledged his full support to the cause and invited the society to visit Sri Lanka as his personal guests.

UAE media gave his visit unprecedented coverage where all English newspapers and DubaiƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢s TV channel praised his efforts for his fellow Sri Lankans something that only happened once before for any South Asian when President of India visited the UAE. Gulf News wrote ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢Sri Lanka markets skilled workforceƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢, The National wrote ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”Sri Lanka to discourage its women from working as housemaidsƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢, The Gulf Today wrote ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”Lanka to reduce maid jobs to UAEƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢, Emirates 24/7 wrote ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”Lankan minister to meet expats in DubaiƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢ and the Khaleej Times wrote ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”¹…”Sri Lanka to focus more on skilled labour: Minister.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ¢-¾‚¢

He also held talks with UAE Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior Lt. General HH Sheikh Saif bin Zayed Al Nahyan and discussed with him bilateral relations between UAE and Sri Lanka and other issues of common concern. Offcourse such a historic visit could not have happened without the hard work put in by H.E. Sarath Wijesinghe, Ambassador of Sri Lanka to UAE and his staff. Who have been tirelessly working to promoting Sri Lanka in line with ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Mahinda ChintanaƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ the document on which the Government Policy is based upon.

After the historic five day visit Hon. Dilan Perera left for Saudi Arabia on the last part of his Gulf States visit. But Sri Lankans and their well wishers have already started seeing the positive aspects of his visit UAE nationals and other expatriates living in the gulf have started to take Sri Lankans more seriously and treat them with more respect. Looking forward to visiting Sri Lanka myself very soon. Dilan Parera truly lives by the quote he has on his website. ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ…-Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside of them was superior to circumstance.ƒÆ’‚¢ƒ¢-¡‚¬ƒ”š‚ Bruce Barton


Mobisher Rabbani is a diplomatic consultant, humanitarian, columnist and President of Overseas Pakistanis and Sri Lankans Society (OPSS) which works to enhance People to People contacts between Non Resident Pakistanis and Sri Lankans

One Response to “Overseas Sri Lankans taken more seriously and treated with more respect.”

  1. jayt Says:

    Dear Mobisher Rabbani
    This is most encouraging news to have such organisation. This should be expanded to all cities in North America, Europe, Australia and other part of the world. I was wishing and expecting have such people’s org. not only in the region but in the world to communicate and share important information which are missing by Pakistanis, sri lankan and event Indians.
    This also very good message to those people who commit crimes in Pakistan and other part of the world. committing various crimes against innocent children, women and men are series of crimes, and there are solid evidence to proof that these crime committed by group of people base in Canada, US, UK and other part of Eu or supported by these countries.
    Also, it is good time for these people to stop their criminal activities before public hearing and debate take place in Europe and north America. we all have rights to defends, rights to care, and rights to freedom of expression.

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