More than 3,000 Sri Lankan migrant workers having expired visas returned home under a special amnesty granted by the Saudi Arabian government, an official statement said in Colombo. These workers were the first to return, and more are expected to come back later, said the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) in its statement.
The overstaying Sri Lankans, during amnesty period, were asked to report to the Saudi Immigration and Emigration Department to obtain a pass for leaving the country without being punished. According to the bureau, there was, however, a delay in releasing temporary visas for such a large number of people.
Sri Lankan workers returning during the amnesty period can go back for employment in Saudi Arabia, but only after renewing or adjusting their visas. Overstaying visa or not having the correcting working visa can result in heavy fines, deportation or even prison. The Saudi government extended the amnesty period from July 3 to Nov 4 due to the large number of applicants.
An estimated 1.3 million Sri Lankans work in the Middle East and remittances are the island's largest source of foreign exchange.