By Ben Garcia
KUWAIT: Amnesty applications by undocumented Sri Lankans in Kuwait turned out to be fewer than expected after the embassy had called on its citizens not to show up as the airport in Sri Lanka is closed. The government of Kuwait has granted an amnesty from April 1-30 to all undocumented expatriates to leave at Kuwait’s expense without paying fines, with a chance to return in the future.
The first nationals to take advantage of the amnesty were Filipinos, followed by Egyptians, Bangladeshis and Indians. Sri Lankan nationals can apply from April 20 to 25, while all other nationals can apply from April 26 to 30, including Sri Lankans and others who couldn’t apply on the earlier dates.
Sri Lankan Embassy personnel who spoke with Kuwait Times on the condition of anonymity admitted they had earlier urged all undocumented Sri Lankans not to go to the amnesty processing center as Sri Lanka is virtually locked down and no one will receive them at the airport. “We had announced earlier asking people not to come, yet there are people here, so we came just to check,” an embassy official said.
Nirosha, a Sri Lankan who was at the processing center, told Kuwait Times she is deeply frustrated by the way the Sri Lankan Embassy handled the amnesty call. “This is a very good opportunity for us to leave Kuwait. But we are not supported by the embassy. We do not have passports, but even those who have passports can be accepted, but cannot leave Kuwait because the airport in Sri Lanka is closed. They said maybe in a week or two they can leave, but I cannot leave because the embassy doesn’t want to process any travel documents,” she said.
Kuwait Times witnessed some applicants being allowed into the processing center, but only those with passports. “My government is not good at all…especially the people at the embassy. Why don’t they support us in time of crisis,” a teary Nirosha lamented. Around 130,000 Sri Lankans reside in Kuwait. According to a report in Al-Qabas daily yesterday, only 100 Sri Lankans applied for the amnesty on the second day of registration.