The Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau (SLFEB) appears to have changed some of its operational activities in the Act, without prior information to the relevant authorities like the Embassies representing Sri Lanka abroad whereby infringing on an altogether separate entity like the Department of Immigration and Emigration (DIE) and also the Human Rights Commission (HRC).
In the morning of Saturday, June 4 an innocent Tamil woman from the back of beyond in Hali Ela who had a valid Visit Visa for three months was harassed at the SLFEB counter at the Katunayake Airport without a final and complete inquiry findings and thus prevented her from taking Flight FZ 559 to Dubai.
First of all what has she got to do with SLFEB as she had a valid return ticket and was not going for foreign employment! She was to visit her brother’s sick wife who is a Muslim. Doesn’t this Tamil woman have the human rights to visit her sister-in-law? Is SLFEB going to make good the cost of the Visit Visa and the air ticket totaling Rs 100,000?
Hasn’t the SLFEB allowed the corrupt politicians, drug traffickers, murderers and the others who have a fairer skin to enter the Departure Lounge on a daily basis without a hassle? Why this indifference SLFEB which is duty bound to explain to the members of the public, through the same media!
Interviewing an Additional General Manager (who kept me waiting for over an hour due to no proper organized token number system), at the SLFEB office in Battaramulla, I had to infer that this office has given instructions to their staff at the airport to adopt an age-old method of "Show me the face and I will show you the rule", thereby making the Rule an Ass!
What type of prior notice has been given to DIE or the Sri Lankan Embassy in Dubai regarding SLFEB’s new rules is beyond our comprehension, as otherwise one, at the time of applying for Visit Visa, will be forewarned of the consequences at the airport and also avoid the forfeiture of the high cost of not only the visa but also the ticket, not forgetting the resultant embarrassment caused to the passenger.
It is time the SLFEB confines itself to its rules only regarding foreign employment as stipulated in its Act and not go beyond borders so to say, thereby interfering or intervening in other matters, causing a lot of inconvenience to innocent and genuine passengers.
Imagine this Tamil woman having to travel many times down and up from Hali Ela to Colombo, first for her Passport, and then arranging for her two children’s accommodation for three months at a cost - all of which SLFEB is not meeting - and then the final journey to see her loved ones!
Her innocence is obvious as she failed to lodge an entry at the Police Post at the airport and then proceed to the HRC, the latter being available to give some redress even at a later stage in regard to the harassment, pain of mind, heavy expenses incurred and the tremendous hardships undergone!!
SLFEB spokesman, Upul Deshapriya: Our officers at the BIA have a legitimate right to intervene only if the ‘Job Category’ on the visa (to Dubai in this reported case) indicates ‘Employment’.
Therefore, it is imperative to establish whether the passenger concerned was under the ‘Employment’ category in the visa issued to her. If not, there was no possibility of her being turned away and prevented from boarding the flight by SLFEB officers at the airport.
The SLFEB is legally mandated to disallow passengers, especially bound for the Middle East for employment purposes if they fail to produce documentation on SLFEB registration/job training, a copy of the work agreement and approval of the Sri Lankan mission in the country concerned.
Passengers under the ‘Tourism’ category on their visas have no issue and do not come under the purview of the SLFEB. All Sri Lankans leaving for employment have to adhere to an established process and our officers have a legal right to prevent them from emplaning, if they are not armed with the necessary documentation.
Some Sri Lankans seeking employment in the Middle East, particularly Dubai, adopt a ruse to avoid the 40-day compulsory, in-house training given by the SLFEB to those leaving for employment.
They first travel to Dubai on a ‘Visit Visa’, spend about two to three months with a known party, find a job and return to Sri Lanka on the assurance that they will come back for employment. This happens because some women are basically lazy to undergo 40 days training.
Later, they try to leave the country saying that they have already found employment, and as a result, they face immense problems without a basic knowledge of the language of the country or any formal training.
In this backdrop, when these migrant workers face difficulties, they run away to seek refuge in Sri Lankan missions to avoid harassment at the hands of their employers. These incidents are then highlighted in the media and the authorities come under flak for not implementing regulations.