Abu Dhabi embassy insists Lankans told not to travel to Oman

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The Sri Lankan Embassy in Abu Dhabi insisted a group of 17 Sri Lankan women had been ordered not to travel to Oman, but they ignored warnings.

The attention of the Sri Lankan Embassy in Abu Dhabi has been drawn to recent media reports of an incident involving 17 Sri Lankan nationals who had entered Abu Dhabi on visit visas in the hope of finding employment abroad.

Embassy officials and UAE police authorities attended the scene and found 17 Sri Lankans at the site.

Following inquiries by embassy officials and police authorities with the said Sri Lankans, they had made statements indicating that they had no problems or complaints. One of them, who consented to return to Sri Lanka. was repatriated by the embassy.

However, on November 15, 2022, it was noted that the others had departed for Oman, despite embassy instructions to follow proper legal and immigration procedures, the Sri Lankan Embassy in Abu Dhabi said.

The Sri Lankan embassies in the United Arab Emirates and Oman are continuously monitoring the situation and remain fully committed to ensuring the well-being of Sri Lankans, the embassy said.

A suspected human trafficking case came to light recently after a number of stranded women in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates contacted a celebrity couple in Sri Lanka and called for help.

The racketeering came to light after a domestic worker employed by the celebrity couple decided to leave saying she had received work in Oman.

The domestic worker then contacted her daughter and said she was locked in a room with at least 16 other women.

The girl had contacted celebrity couple, Dushyanth Weeraman and Stephanie Siriwardhana, and asked for help.

The maid had informed her daughter that the passports and mobile phones of the women with her in the room had been confiscated.

She had managed to contact the girl using a hidden phone.

“Most of these women are from the Hatton area,” Siriwardhana told the Daily Mirror.

Alerted by the domestic worker’s daughter, Weeraman and Siriwardhana traced the woman’s location using WhatsApp and discovered that she was not in Oman but in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

The celebrity couple, also involved in social work, managed to get images of the women’s documents sent to them via WhatsApp.

“After reviewing the documents, we found that the women had traveled to Abu Dhabi on a visit visa and not a work visa,” Siriwardhana said.

Weeraman said the women were sent to a foreign placement sub-agency in Katugastota through a Hatton-based broker.

The sub-agency had forwarded the information to a foreign employment agency registered in Maradana.

The Overseas Employment Agency had registered the women with the Overseas Employment Office to work only in the UAE.

Once registered, the women received travel tickets through the broker and were sent to Abu Dhabi, not Oman, on visit visas.

The whole process, with several layers, makes it difficult to trace the main racket.

“Anyway, these women didn’t know that they couldn’t go to Oman on a visit visa and work and that it was illegal. But they left assuming they would find work in Oman,” Weeraman said.

He said it was learned that the women also do not have sponsors in Oman to provide them with employment.

Weeraman said the women signed a letter and submitted it to the Sri Lankan Embassy in Abu Dhabi expressing their willingness to stay and work in Abu Dhabi.

However, while women can apply for work visas in the United Arab Emirates despite arriving on a visit visa, if they wish, women have now been sent to Oman without work permits.

“The women were taken to the airport saying they were being sent to Dubai. But when they got to the airport they found they were being sent to Oman,” Siriwardhana said.

There are fears that the women could be forced to work illegally in Oman and later deported with the risk of being detained at Oman airport for overstaying or violating their visa regulations.

“They have been tricked into committing a crime by traveling to Oman on a visit visa. They will not have government protection,” Weeraman said.

Siriwardhana said Foreign Labor and Employment Minister Manusha Nanayakkara was alerted to the incident.

Meanwhile, Nanayakkara yesterday had a discussion with Public Security Minister Tiran Alles on the issue of human trafficking.

A decision was taken to intensify operations to suppress human trafficking.

It was also decided to raise public awareness of human trafficking. (Colombo Official Gazette)



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