IOM and Australia Support the Repatriation of Stranded Sri Lankan Migrant Workers

Photo: IOM

Colombo On 06 August 2021 the International Organization for Migration (IOM) with the support of the Australian Government, in close collaboration with the Sri Lankan Embassy in Kuwait and the Sri Lanka Bureau for Foreign Employment (SLBFE) successfully repatriated a group of Sri Lankan migrant workers from Kuwait.

Carried out in support of the Government of Sri Lanka’s ongoing repatriation efforts, the group were assisted back home under the auspices of the National COVID-19 Response Plan for Migrant Workers.

Approximately 1.5 million Sri Lankan migrant workers are employed overseas and statistics derived from SLBFE indicate that in 2018, less-skilled and domestic worker categories represented 55.2 per cent of the total departures for foreign employment from Sri Lanka. The Middle East continues to be the main destination for Sri Lankan migrant workers with approximately 97.4 percent of domestic workers and 78 percent of low-skilled category workers concentrated in Kuwait, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates.

The COVID-19 crisis has brought about an unprecedented impact on economies and societies. This in turn has disproportionately affected the most vulnerable segments of the societies and communities, in particular, migrants. Thousands of Sri Lankan migrant workers who are employed in the Middle East have lost their jobs resulting in substantial implications on their economic security. Measures such as lockdowns, border closures and travel restrictions which have been in place to mitigate the transmission risks of COVID-19 have further exacerbated the dire situation of many migrants.

The first group of repatriated migrant workers were living under extremely vulnerable conditions in Kuwait. With funding from the Government of Australia, IOM was able to address the immediate concerns of these vulnerable migrant workers during this period, including conducting health examinations, PCR tests for COVID-19 prior to departure and provide them with transportation and mobility assistance for those with medical conditions.

In the coming months, IOM will continue to extend its support to the Government of Sri Lanka to facilitate the repatriations of vulnerable Sri Lankan migrant workers who are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The magnitude of this crisis and its cascading impact on the migrants, irrespective of their migration status, calls for responses through firm cooperative measures. A comprehensive cross sectoral approach by Governments, international humanitarian organizations, the private sector, and the civil society is needed in providing both practical and sustained solutions to these migrant workers” said Mr. Sarat Dash, IOM Chief of Mission for Sri Lanka and Maldives.

His Excellency, David Holly, The Australian High Commissioner for Sri Lanka and Maldives stated “Australia is pleased to support the Sri Lankan government through IOM, in repatriating Sri Lankan migrant workers during COVID-19. It is important that we come together and support the community during this time.”


For more information, please contact Minoli Don, National Programme Officer / Head - Migrant Protection and Assistance Unit at IOM Sri Lanka, Tel.: +94115325300, Email:

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