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Battered by economic crisis, Sri Lankans seek passport to a better life -Breaking


© Reuters. Between the economic crisis and the preparation of passports by officials at Sri Lanka’s Immigration and Emigration Department in Colombo Sri Lanka on June 8, 2022. Picture taken June 8,2022. REUTERS/Dinuka Liyanawatte


By Uditha Jayasinghe

COLOMBO (Reuters – R.M.R Lenora waited outside Sri Lanka’s Immigration and Emigration Department Headquarters for two days last Thursday in a slow queue, hoping to receive a passport and a chance of leaving a country suffering from an economic crisis.

After her husband’s layoff from the small restaurant where his wife was a chef, Lenora, 33 years old, decided to become a garment worker and apply for a position as a maid.

My husband lost his job due to the lack of cooking gas. Food costs have soared. Lenora stated that she makes about $6.80 per day and it’s very difficult to find work.

It is not possible to have two children.

Last week, the tiny woman, who had a change of clothing and an umbrella in case of blistering sun, boarded a train that ran from Nuwara Eliya, in the central hills of Sri Lanka. It took her 170 km (105 mi) to reach Colombo where she handed in her papers to obtain her first passport.

Lenora joined a group of labourers, shop-owners, farmers, government servants, and housewives in the line. Some camped overnight to seek refuge from Sri Lanka’s most severe financial crisis for seven decades.

Government data shows that Sri Lanka issued 288,645 passports during the first five month of 2022, as compared to 91.3331 for the same period last.

After economic mismanagement, the COVID-19 pandemic and its loss of foreign currency reserves, 22 million island people are in dire straits.

Inflation of over 33% and currency depreciation are all reasons why people want to move.

According to data from the central bank, the government wants to help more individuals who are interested in working abroad. This will increase remittances which have fallen by half over recent months.


Senior officials at Immigration and Emigration Department said that the 160 employees were working overtime to provide passports to people who have been waiting for their turn.

H.P. stated that although the department has tightened security and increased working hours, tripled its passport issue rate, more than 3,000 people still drop off forms daily. Chandralal oversees authorisation for most applications.

Online applications are slow and many applicants don’t have the opportunity to be granted appointments.

Chandralal stated, “It’s very difficult to deal with people because they are frustrated. They don’t understand that the system cannot handle this type of demand.”

“They get upset and then blame us. But there’s nothing that we can do.”

Many people are rushing to flee, and this was exacerbated by Ranil Wickremesinghe’s warning that there is a serious food shortage in the coming months.

According to the United Nations, Sri Lanka is at risk of a humanitarian crisis. It has created a plan for $47.2 million in aid to support 1.7 million people most affected.

Sri Lanka has entered talks with the International Monetary Fund to negotiate a rescue package. In April, Sri Lanka had stopped paying its foreign debts of approximately $12 billion.

It is estimated that the government will need $5 billion in order to purchase essential imports during the remaining year.

Lenora wants to live a happier life for her family and for her children.

She stated, “I would like to stay in Kuwait for two years then I am sure that I can save and earn enough money to return.”

“I want my daughters to be educated.” This is the most important thing.