Over 150 illegal Sri Lankan migrants return from Viet Nam

Over 150 illegal Sri Lankan migrants return from Viet Nam

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) facilitated the voluntary humanitarian return of 152 Sri Lankan migrants through a chartered flight from Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam late last night (Tuesday) following their rescue when a boat capsized off the coast of Viet Nam on 8 November 2022.

“Addressing the issue of irregular migration requires a multi-agency effort and IOM records its appreciation to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for facilitating the return process and considers this to be a good example of teamwork involving the Governments of Sri Lanka and Viet Nam, the Sri Lanka Embassy in Ha Noi and IOM missions in Colombo, Ha Noi and Ghana,” said Sarat Dash, Chief of Mission to IOM Sri Lanka and Maldives.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in coordination with the Sri Lanka Navy and the Sri Lanka Missions in the Philippines, Singapore and Viet Nam, together with the regional Maritime Rescue Coordination Centers (MRCC) based in Singapore, coordinated rescue efforts for the migrants. Since 8 November 2022, a total of 302 migrants were accommodated in three different Viet Nam military accommodation facilities situated in the city of Vung Tau.

For over a month, IOM in coordination with the Government of Vietnam and the Sri Lanka Embassy in Ha Noi ensured the provision of basic necessities, including food, medical aid, hygiene kits and counselling support for all the migrants. A team of officials attached to the Protection Unit of IOM Sri Lanka travelled to Vietnam to undertake protection screenings/vulnerability assessments of all rescued migrants in collaboration with IOM Vietnam. The Honorary Consul of Sri Lanka in Ho Chi Minh City, under the guidance of the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Ha Noi provided the migrants with initial Consular assistance, basic food and facilitation of other disposables and required items for the children.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and IOM appreciates the Government of Viet Nam’s willingness to offer a place of safety for over a month and assist the 302 vulnerable Sri Lankan migrants rescued at sea while repatriation work was being coordinated from Sri Lanka’s end.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs convened a stakeholder meeting on 2 December 2022 with representatives from government agencies and IOM to make necessary arrangements for the smooth and safe return of the migrants.

The special charter flight organized by IOM Sri Lanka which brought back 152 rescued migrants was coordinated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and relevant Government authorities in Sri Lanka, the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Viet Nam, and the Vietnamese authorities.

IOM’s assistance addressing the immediate needs of the stranded migrants, repatriation through a special charter flight, onward transportation to their homes and comprehensive reintegration assistance in Sri Lanka totals over USD 600,000.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ali Sabry thanked IOM for its generous support in the process of repatriation and reintegration of Sri Lankan migrants who are attempting to cross borders in irregular ways.  (Colombo Gazette)

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