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Sri Lankans stranded in Romania: Foreign Ministry awaiting clearance

The Foreign Ministry of Sri Lanka is currently looking at possibilities of obtaining clearance from the Romanian Aviation Authority and the Romanian Medical Authority to repatriate Sri Lankan citizens stranded in Romania, Minister of Foreign Relations, Skills Development, Employment and Labour Relations, Dinesh Gunawardena told The Morning.

36 Sri Lankan workers working at a textile factory in Botosani, in northeastern Romania, were transported to Bucharest’s main airport on Sunday evening, as they were told they would be repatriated. However, there was no flight scheduled for them, so they were left stranded at the airport for several hours, Romanian news agencies reported.

“The Foreign Ministry is attending to and monitoring the situation at the moment,” Gunawardena said.

He said the Sri Lankan Embassy in Bucharest is currently coordinating repatriation arrangements with relevant authorities.

Gunawardena noted that with the Covid-19 situation, flight arrangements were not as often as before and that flights from Bucharest have reduced from 12 to 2.

The Foreign Minister further noted that the group of Sri Lankans had been reported safe.

According to Romanian news reports, the Sri Lankan citizens worked at a textile factory in Botosani. At some point, one of them got infected with the new coronavirus (COVID-19), and all of them were placed under institutionalized quarantine for three weeks. Meanwhile they were told they could go back to their home country, as they were all fired.

“Two buses transported the 36 Sri Lankan workers to Bucharest’s main airport in Otopeni on Sunday. However, as Sri Lanka’s airports are closed, no commercial aircraft are flying there. There was no repatriation flight scheduled for the Sri Lankan workers. Thus, they remained at the airport for several hours.”

“It is yet unclear who told the workers that they could return to their home country. According to the media, the transport to the airport was organized by the Botosani Prefecture.”

“Labor minister Violeta Alexandru went to the airport to check the situation and find solutions for the 36 confused workers. She said she would verify their departure from Botosani, as well as the reasons for which they were fired.”

“The 36 workers were eventually accommodated at a hotel near the airport.”