10,000 Sri Lankan migrant workers return on Saudi amnesty

COLOMBO, (PNA/Xinhua) — As many as 10,000 Sri Lankan migrant workers have returned home on an amnesty provided by the Saudi Arabian government while efforts are being made to bring home some 6,000 others who failed to meet the deadline, an official said here on Monday.

The amnesty period offered by the Saudi Arabian government for overstaying foreigners, mostly unskilled workers ended on Sunday.

However, since an estimated 16,000 Sri Lankans registered to be returned there are around 6,000 others still remaining in Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment spokesman Mangala Randeniya told media.

“We are hoping to negotiate for their return as well. But it has to be done at a government to government level,” he added.

Around 10,000 Sri Lankans returned home during the grace period which was granted by Saudi authorities on 3 April 2013 initially for three months and later extended by another four months due to excessive demand.

Since the lapse of the amnesty period migrant workers remaining illegally will have to pay around 23,000 U.S. dollars and serve a one year prison term as the Saudi government clamps down on errant foreign employees.

Saudi Arabia is a favorite destination of Sri Lankan migrant workers despite the poor worker rights provided by the Middle East nation.

Currently an estimated 600,000 Sri Lankans work in Saudi Arabia, mostly as unskilled housemaids.

Working in the oil rich country ran into a storm of controversy after Sri Lankan housemaid Rizana Nafeek was beheaded earlier this year for a crime she allegedly committed as a minor.

However, Sri Lanka’s economy continues to be heavily dependent on remittances sent by over 1 million migrant workers with 6 billion U.S dollars in revenue targeted by the government.