The Government has begun preparing emergency travel documents for thousands of Sri Lankan workers in Qatar to facilitate their evacuation if the latest Gulf crisis worsens. Sri Lanka’s Ambassador A.S.P. Liyanage told the Sunday Times that while chances of the diplomatic spat escalating into a conflict was highly unlikely, the Government had a responsibility to take all measures necessary to ensure the safety of Sri Lankan in Qatar.
An estimated 150,000 Sri Lankans live and work in Qatar. Accordingly, the embassy, in consultation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Colombo, has started preparing emergency travel documents for Sri Lankan citizens in Qatar.
The reason behind the move, the ambassador said, was that the passports of most foreign workers were in the custody of their employers.
“If an emergency were to occur, we don’t know if it would be possible for workers to obtain these passports for a quick evacuation. Given the vast numbers of our citizens here, we have begun preparing emergency travel documents for them so that we will be prepared should the need arise,” he said.
In addition, the Government was ready to organise charter flights to evacuate Sri Lankans from Qatar if the crisis worsens, Mr. Liyanage said.
Also Read: Sri Lankans not affected by Qatar situation: Qatar Ambassador
On Wednesday, the Ambassador held a special discussion with representatives of 22 Sri Lankan organisations to discuss the crisis. Meanwhile, essential goods were being sent to Qatar from Iran and Turkey, which are backing Qatar in its crisis with Saudi Arabia and its seven Arab allies which have imposed imposed a land, sea and air blockade.
They also cut diplomatic ties with Qatar accusing it of funding terrorist groups, but Doha has strongly denied the charge.