Bilesha Weeraratne Discusses Remittances, Return, and Reintegration of Migrant Workers in Sri Lanka

27 May 2020

IPS Research Fellow and Head of Migration and Urbanisation research, Bilesha Weeraratne, was a panelist at the Global Research Forum on Diaspora and Transnationalism (GRFDT) Virtual Panel Discussion on ‘Gulf Migration: During and Aftermath of COVID-19’, on 27 May 2020.

During the discussion, Dr. Weeraratne focused on remittances, return, and reintegration of migrant workers in Sri Lanka. She noted that remittances to Sri Lanka contracted by 14% in March. Even though migrant workers had money in hand, they were not able to remit; “the overreliance on brick and mortar channels affected the remittance capacity of many of the migrant workers who had money in hand in March,” she said. Moreover, it was noted that remittances to Sri Lanka declined by 32%, indicating where remittances are going to head during the rest of the year.

Dr. Weeraratne also highlighted that Sri Lanka has a good labour migration policy, and within that, there is a sub-policy on return and reintegration. But unfortunately, the return and reintegration situation during COVID-19 is not the normal/traditional, but one in which Sri Lanka is in turmoil, while the returning migrants and their families are under severe distress.

During her deliberations, she further noted that the Kuwait government has extended an excellent amnesty programme. However, one area that was overlooked in this scheme was the vulnerability of the migrants, because it appears that many returnees to Sri Lanka were infected while they were in Kuwait. This indicates that the amnesty programme did not test migrants for COVID-19 before their departure from Kuwait.

Watch panel discussion