Red Cross to strengthen support to migrant workers

11/06/2013 – Colombo, Sri Lanka: The Sri Lanka Red Cross Society has taken steps to ensure that the millions of migrant works, who are traveling to Middle Eastern and European countries in search of employment, will now be given added support and financial protection under a new agreement signed with the Government of Sri Lanka recently.

According to the Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau over 1.2 million workers have travelled to Middle Eastern countries in the past year 2012, as housemaids, mechanics and other menial jobs. Most of the people are women who are to fill vacancies as housemaids in the Middle East.

“The main reason we see women migrating at this pace is mainly due to poverty, says the President of SLRCS Jagath Abeysinghe.

“Once a woman leaves a family, most of the time what we see is that the wellbeing of a family drastically deteriorates and creates other social problems that we have to face in modern times”

Considering the dire need that has arisen in the country, the SLRCS brought together three parties that would strengthen the support that is to be provided for migrant workers.

Accordingly the SLRCS penned a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with a leading Insurance company in Sri Lanka “The Finance”, and the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE), which represents the Government of Sri Lanka.

With this agreement the Red Cross will help the SLBFE to provide humanitarian assistance to migrant workers, and ‘The Finance’ Company will provide financial assistance when needed.

Red Cross also will conduct awareness and training programmes on first aid, handling emergencies, social protection and humanitarian assistance for the migrant workers prior to them leaving the island for work.

The programme will also provide financial assistance in the form of housing, educational and other loans to migrant workers at concessionary rates.

The agreement was signed by all three parties amidst the President of Sri Lanka H. E. Mahinda Rajapakse at Temple Trees in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Addressing the gathering the President of Sri Lanka thanked the Red Cross for the initiative taken to address these issues. He commended on the leadership taken to ensure that migrant workers are taken care of, not only prior to them leaving the island, but also ensuring their safety throughout the worldwide network of the Red Cross Movement.

In the recent past there have been influxes of abuses being reported by Sri Lankan migrant workers who have been engaging in employment in the Middle East. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) says, most of the people who have been abused are housemaids who work in the Gulf Region.

Last year the agency and the Sri Lankan Ministry of Health commissioned a survey of 1,100 migrants and found that one in six had suffered some sort of abuse in the work place.

Minister of Foreign Employment Dilan Perera, President of SLRCS Jagath Abeysinghe, National Secretary of SLRCS Nimal Kumar,  Director General of SLRCS Tissa Abeywickrama, & Dr. Bhanu Prathap, representing the International Federation of Red Cross & Red Crescent Societies were present at the occasion.

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