The Human rights Commission of Sri Lanka’s (HRCSL) has written to President Gotabaya Rajapaksa calling for urgent action to repatriate Sri Lankan migrants stranded overseas due to COVID-19 travel restrictions in fulfilment of Sri Lanka’s human rights obligations.
The HRCSL wrote to the President after it received numerous complaints from Sri Lankan migrants and their families who are stranded overseas due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
“The complainants state that they have paid the airfare, subjected themselves to necessary PCR tests, but still stranded overseas without even basic amenities to survive, despite the promise made by the Government to repatriate them in early November,' the HRCSl said in the letter to the President.
It added that many of them have either had their visas canceled or expired, thereby converting them into illegal immigrants.
The Commission said that while it highly commends all the efforts made by the President and the Government of Sri Lanka to curb the spread of this virus, and fully recognizes the special need of this critical hour to restrict certain rights of people in the interests of public health, it is incumbent on the Commission per its lawful mandate to inquire into complaints and make necessary recommendations regarding measures to be taken to ensure that administrative practices are in accordance with our constitution and international human rights norms and standards.
In this regard, the Commission emphasized that under the provisions of the Constitution, and various international treaties which Sri Lanka has ratified, such as the Migrant Workers’ Convention and ICCPR, the migrant workers and their families have been granted the right to return to their State of origin.
Moreover, State departments, such as the Ministry of Foreign Employment and Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment, have pledged to ensure the protection and wellbeing of our migrant workers from the day of their departure to the day of return to Sri Lanka.
Further, the UN Committee on Migrant Workers, on which Sri Lanka has served from its inception, has called on governments to ensure an orderly, safe, and dignified return for all migrant workers to their home countries.
The Commission urged the Government to take immediate action to secure the safe repatriation of the migrants and their families stranded overseas in fulfillment of Sri Lanka’s national and international human rights obligations.