Government of Switzerland and IOM Scale Up Efforts to Support Repatriation of Sri Lankan Migrant Workers Colombo, Sri Lanka

Colombo  Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, many migrant workers across the world remain stranded in transit and destination countries due to travel restrictions and reduced repatriation opportunities. Currently, close to 40,000 Sri Lankan migrant workers will be supported to return to the country by the Government of Sri Lanka (GoSL) over the coming months. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) has assisted GoSL in improving the COVID-19 testing facility at the Bandaranaike International Airport (BIA). This facility at the Point of Entry can help GoSL in bringing back migrants safely as well as in opening the airport for tourists in due course. The project is funded by the Government of Switzerland.

The project aims to expedite the resumption of repatriating migrant workers by equipping BIA with new advanced PCR-Testing machines (an RNA/DNA extractor and two light cyclers) and 39,000 COVID RT-PCR test kits. The advanced equipment is the first of its kind in Sri Lanka, and the newly installed machines have significantly increased BIA’s testing capacity by enabling up to 1,300 PCR tests a day, with a turnaround time of approximately four hours. This would not only improve passengers’ convenience, but also further reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19.

“Considering the prevailing situation due to the coronavirus pandemic, technological support is much needed. We greatly appreciate the support provided to Sri Lanka and thank the Government of Switzerland and IOM for their timely assistance”, said Ms. Pavithra Devi Wanniarachchi, Hon. Minister for Health, during a formal handing over ceremony held at the Ministry this morning. The ceremony was attended by the Health Secretary, the Ambassador of Switzerland, the World Health Organization Country Representative, the IOM Chief of Mission and several officials.

Speaking at the event, the Ambassador of Switzerland, HE Mr. Dominik Furgler, highlighted the strong relationship between the two countries and the engagement of the Swiss government in assisting the development in Sri Lanka, and noted “This is a testimony to the long-standing relationship as well as the ongoing Migration Partnership between Sri Lanka and Switzerland. We are ready to support Sri Lanka whenever it is needed, and we have a long-standing history in addressing issues related to labour migration. We thank our partners in assisting us with providing support to the Ministry of Health—it was a team effort”. Since 2002, IOM has supported the GoSL’s efforts in addressing migration in a safe, orderly and dignified manner. In continuation of the support to GoSL, IOM has implemented several activities addressing COVID-19 to support the welfare of migrant workers and their communities. In June 2020, with support from the Government of Japan and the Government of Australia, IOM procured and delivered equipment and supplies to BIA to support health and border preparedness responses, including eight health inspection counters, seven temperature screening thermal sensor camera systems, fifteen infrared thermometers and personal protective equipment.

“New technology and equipment at Points of Entry are vital to meet the unprecedented challenges posed by this pandemic and to ensure the protection and safety of both migrants and all supporting border management and health officials who act as first responders. IOM feels privileged to be a part of this initiative, and we are grateful to the Government of Switzerland for their generous support”, said Mr. Sarat Dash, IOM’s Chief of Mission in Sri Lanka. The Airport and Aviation Services (Sri Lanka) Limited (AASL) has provided the space including necessary renovations to set up the laboratory facility. “It is a true reflection of the strong partnership between MoH, AASL and IOM, and we appreciate the Government of Switzerland’s support”, said Maj. General (Rtd) G.A. Chandrasiri, chairman of AASL, during a visit to the laboratory.


For more information, please contact Eureka Somavansa, IOM Sri Lanka, at Tel. +94 112112600, Email:

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