Sri Lanka negotiating inmate transfer with UAE

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The Sri Lankan government is negotiating with the UAE for the transfer of expat prisoners to the island nation, a top envoy told Khaleej Times in an exclusive interview.

Ahamed L.S. Khan, outgoing Charge d’Affaires at Sri Lankan Embassy, said the new ambassador is set to join office by mid of this month and has some immediate things to follow up on.

“We have an extradition treaty with the UAE. We are negotiating the transfer of prisoners. There are about 600 Sri Lankans in prisons here, mostly for minor offences. They can serve their sentences in Sri Lanka, which will help them meet their families.”

When asked if prisoners would prefer to stay back because of better facilities in the UAE jails, the envoy said: “Prisons in Sri Lanka maintain international standards. So, when provided with an option, they will return.”

He underlined that Sri Lankan expats don’t violate UAE laws and lead a peaceful life.

“We had some 1,000 expats who availed of the amnesty scheme. Also, our foreign employment is regularised. We have the Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau, a central authority governing foreign employment.

“So, agents are registered and we don’t hear many job scams or fake recruitment issues.”

He also urged expats to benefit from newly introduced online attestation system.

“Those who wish to attest documents can come to the embassy. They don’t need to visit Sri Lanka to have their documents attested by the UAE embassy in Colombo.

“Also, expats who wish to enrol their children back home can contact the Ministry of Education in Sri Lanka. We have reserved quota for children of expatriates to enter universities in Sri Lanka.”

Travel advisory

Pitching Sri Lanka as a safe place for tourists, Khan encourage residents to explore the island nation.

He lauded the cancellation of the travel advisory for Emiratis visiting Sri Lanka, which was issued following the militant attack on Easter Sunday in April. “In the aftermath of the Easter attack, our tourism industry was badly affected. In the first half of the year, we saw a massive drop in the number of tourists. But it’s picking up rapidly now.

“The UAE has helped Sri Lanka during challenging times, like during the fallout of tsunami in 2004 and Easter bombings in April. The UAE has removed the travel advisory for visits to Sri Lanka. Last year, about 7,000 UAE nationals visited Sri Lanka. We hope that mark is crossed this year. Sri Lanka is safe again.”

Khan stressed on the strong bilateral relations between the two countries. “We are celebrating 40 years of diplomatic ties with the UAE. The number of Sri Lankans in the UAE workforce is growing,” he said, adding that there are about 270,000 Sri Lankan expatriates in the UAE.