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UAE to crack down on illegal human smugglers amid the surge in SL job seekers

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has decided to take stern action against illegal human smuggling racketeers as more and more Sri Lankans visiting that country for employment.

The UAE’s direct investments in Sri Lanka exceeded US $19 million in 2020 and 2021, and bilateral trade amounted to $2.7 billion during the same period.

Labour and Foreign Employment Minister Manusha Nanayakkara said that the UAE will take stern action against those who facilitate illegal immigration into their country.

During the meeting the UAE Human Resources Minister Dr. Abdulrahman Abdulmannan Al Awar assured Minister Manusha Nanayakkara that his country will take stern action against those who bring foreign workers into the country through illegal methods.

There are more than 380,000 migrant workers working in the UAE with more than 35,000 Sri Lankan migrants left to the UAE in 2022, some of them were reportedly found to be seeking jobs while on a visit visa and a few were forced into other illegal trades.

Minister Nanayakkara had explained to the UAE minister about difficulties faced by Sri Lankans who come in search of jobs to UAE on visit visas as a result of various scams by individuals and organized groups.

He also explained that efforts are taken to make the public aware of the perils of seeking foreign employment opportunities through a visit visa.

The UAE minister responded positively to the request made by Nanayakkara to provide more job opportunities in the UAE for skilled workers from Sri Lanka.

The joint technical committee that was set up in 2021 between the two countries will continue to discuss technical details on how to prevent human trafficking through visit visas to the UAE.

He said a program will be implemented by mapping the qualification framework of the two countries that will recognize the qualifications of Sri Lankan migrant workers.

Minister Nanayakkara explained that 35,572 Sri Lankan workers obtained employment opportunities through the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment last year which accounts for 11.4 percent of the total departures in Sri Lanka. This is a 27 percent increase in 2022 compared to 2021

Sri Lanka is facing its worst economic crisis in its history. Food inflation and unemployment rates have soared, forex reserves have dried up and its currency has plunged against the dollar.

The country is running out of money and is eyeing an immediate IMF bailout. Against all odds, the tiny island nation is striving hard to revive its debt-laden economy.

The bankrupt government is looking at two elements that have always ensured steady capital inflow: tourism and foreign remittance.

Last year, a record 311,188 Sri Lankans left the nation seeking jobs abroad and a good 85 per cent flew into the Middle East.

Remittances – a major source of foreign exchange, soared with migrant workers sending more than $475 million in December 2022, which was much higher than the same period of 2021 but lower than pre-Covid-19 time.

Nanayakkara is seeking more jobs for professionals in the areas of finance, healthcare, energy and information technology.

The labour ministry has embarked on a nation-wide labour market intelligence programme through a labour market information system.

He said this would give us more insights into labour supply and demand with the characteristics required for job markets. We will then communicate this with our education officials to ensure what is being produced can meet the expectations of both local and international jobs markets.”

In the past years, the economic woes were further hit with a drop in remittances, which was linked to transactions made through illegal channels, he claimed.

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