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Sunday, 13 November 2011





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SLBFE cautions Korean job seekers to be vigilant

Kingsley Ranawaka

The Government is trying to secure more employment for Sri Lankans in Italy, the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) Chairman Kingsley Ranawaka said in an exclusive interview with Sunday Observer.

Q: The Sri Lankan Government is paying close attention regarding employment in South Korea in addition to the Middle East. What is the progress of this program?

A: Nearly 10,000 candidates has passed the South Korean language test. No sooner we receive the medical certificates of these candidates their names will be added in the South Korean employment website. For two years, these names will be available in the website. In the interim, these qualified persons can be employed by other industrialists with the approval of the South Korean Labour Department.

There is no third party involvement in this process because the South Korean language test papers are prepared and answer scripts are corrected in South Korea. The SLBFE and South Korean Government are the main partners of this program. Certain elements are attempting to cheat people by promising them that the failed results could be turned into success.

The SLBFE cautioned South-Korean employment seekers to be vigilant of such elements. The employment seekers must be fluent in the Korean language.

The South Korean Government is also for looking skilled workers with language fluency.

Promotional campaigns conducted by the SLBFE and the ability of Sri Lankan workers have resulted in more employment in South Korea.

This is not a two or three month deal, it took a long time to secure more South Korean employment opportunities. It will take a long time to train workers. Workers must be trained in a manner that will satisfy the South Korean job market.

The low skills and overstay of workers will also affect employment opportunities for Sri Lankans. Even though work permits have expired, certain workers are continuing to work in South Korea.

The Korean Government has informed 15 countries which send workers to South Korea that overstaying workers will be employed again. This action of the South-Korean Government will hamper new employment opportunities for Sri Lanka. Realising the situation, workers who complete five years should return to the country.

Q: What are the other countries the SLBFE is focusing attention on in addition to South Korea?

A: The Foreign Employment Promotion Ministry has entered into an employment agreement with the Italian Government.

Sri Lankan workers will be sent to Italy from next year. No payment will have to be made by employment seekers. They will be sent free of charge. There is no third party involvement in this program. The applications must be submitted to the Italian Embassy in Colombo. Giving money to any middleman in this process is a punishable offence.

Persons wanting to go to Italy should submit a duly filled application directly. Another person cannot submit an application on anyone's behalf. Employment seekers must be vigilant about money making gangs.

Q: What is the Middle East country where the highest number of Sri Lankans are employed?

A: Saudi Arabia is the main country where Sri Lankans are employed. Over 450,000 Sri Lankans are working here. Altogether over 1.5 million Sri Lankans are working in the Middle East.

Q: What is your target by December 31?

A: At the moment I am unable to state an exact figure. Last year 265,000 persons left the country for foreign employment. There is a possibility to reach this number or to exceed it by the end of this year.

Q: What is the foreign employment promotional work you plan to carry out in the future?

A: Arriving at a successful employment agreement with the Italian Government is a great victory. There are positive signs of obtaining employment in other European Countries as well.

Q: Some migrant workers complain that they have no connection with relatives who are abroad. What are the moves being taken in connection with their problems?

A: The SLBFE received over 7,000 complaints on a daily basis in the last three years. Due to timely moves taken by the SLBFE with the help of embassies, this number has declined to below 2,500 in a few years. The percentage of normal complaints has declined by a considerable amount. As the SLBFE has a close network connection with embassies, it is not a difficult task to communicate with migrant workers who have no connection with relatives in Sri Lanka.

Q: Number of our housemaids are languishing in Embassies. Some have escaped from their work place due to torture by employers. What action has been taken by the government in connection with these women?

A: They will be brought to the country soon. They will not be left there to languish. Some women come to the embassy even without a passport. It will take some time to arrange a temporary travel document. After arranging temporary travel documents they will be brought to the country immediately.

Q: What action is to be taken against the employer who tortures or harasses housemaids?

A: We have instructed embassies to take legal action against employers who harass or torture Sri Lankan housemaids or workers in the work place. Unfortunately, a few incidents have taken place early last year. No sooner such an incident was reported we sent an investigative team to that country. We also send a Judicial Medical Officer to the country where these incidents have occurred.

At the moment there is a woman in Bahrain who claimed that she was fed with iron nails by the employer. This news also appeared in certain newspapers in Sri Lanka. Immediately, after we came to know of this incident we sent an officer from Kuwait to Bahrain to investigate into the matter.

We told her if she had been forced to swallow iron nails by the employer, legal action should be taken against him.

She denied the claim. So we couldn't take any action against the employer. This woman is now in the custody of an NGO in Bahrain. This NGO is fighting for the rights of migrant workers. If such an incident takes place we won't keep quiet.

There was a problem to bring that woman to Sri Lanka as the employer was going to sue this woman for making false allegations against the employer. The Bureau held discussions with the employer. He came to the conclusion that he must be paid compensation. We held discussions with the Agency. It agreed to settle a portion of the compensation. The SLBFE had to bear the rest and the air ticket for the woman. She will arrive in Sri Lanka shortly.

Q: A few words of illegal Agencies?

A: To my knowledge the number of illegal agencies have dropped due to stringent measures being taken by the SLBFE. The Foreign Employment Act was amended in 2009. The amendment authorises the SLBFE to conduct special raids on illegal agencies and to take suspects into custody.


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