152 migrants rescued at sea repatriated to Sri Lanka from Vietnam
COLOMBO — Over 150 of the 302 Sri Lankan migrants given refuge in Vietnam after they were rescued mid sea, were repatriated to Sri Lanka on Tuesday (27). Their repatriation was facilitated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), via a chartered flight from Ho Chi Minh City.
IOM in a statement issued on Wednesday (28), described the repatriation of 152 Sri Lankans as “voluntary humanitarian return”.
The Sri Lankans, including 20 children were rescued off the coast of Vietnam on November 8, after their boat, the Myanmar-flagged Lady 3 fishing vessel, began taking on water. The vessel was thought to be heading to Canada, about 6,000 nautical miles across the Pacific Ocean.
Sarat Dash, Chief of Mission to IOM Sri Lanka and Maldives said addressing the issue of irregular migration requires a multi-agency effort, adding, “IOM records its appreciation to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for facilitating the return process and considers this to be a good example of teamwork involving the Governments of Sri Lanka and Vietnam, the Sri Lanka Embassy in Hanoi and IOM missions in Colombo, Hanoi and Ghana.”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in coordination with the Sri Lanka Navy and the Sri Lanka Missions in the Philippines, Singapore and Vietnam, together with the regional Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres (MRCC) based in Singapore, coordinated the rescue efforts for the 302 migrant who have been accommodated in three different Vietnam military facilities situated in the city of Vung Tau since November 8.
The statement said that for over a month, IOM in coordination with the Government of Vietnam and the Sri Lanka Embassy in Hanoi had ensured the provision of basic necessities, including food, medical aid, hygiene kits and counselling support for all the migrants.
A team of officials attached to the Protection Unit of IOM Sri Lanka had also travelled to Vietnam to undertake protection screenings/vulnerability assessments of all rescued migrants in collaboration with IOM Vietnam.
The Honorary Consul of Sri Lanka in Ho Chi Minh City, under the guidance of the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Hanoi had provided the migrants with initial Consular assistance, basic food and facilitation of other disposables and required items for the children.
Sri Lanka and IOM appreciates the Government of Vietnam’s willingness to offer a place of safety for over a month and assist the 302 vulnerable Sri Lankan migrants rescued at sea while repatriation work was being coordinated from Sri Lanka’s end, the IOM said, noting that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had convened a stakeholder meeting on December 2 with representatives from government agencies and IOM to make necessary arrangements for the smooth and safe return of the migrants.
The special charter flight organized by IOM Sri Lanka which brought back 152 rescued migrants was coordinated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and relevant government authorities in Sri Lanka, the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Vietnam, and the Vietnamese authorities, the IOM said, adding that the organization’s assistance addressing the immediate needs of the stranded migrants, repatriation through a special charter flight, onward transportation to their homes and comprehensive reintegration assistance in Sri Lanka totalled over US$ 600,000.