top of page
 Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Sri Lankan Migrant Workers in the Gulf Region

Research Papers

Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Sri Lankan Migrant Workers in the Gulf Region

At the onset of the pandemic in March 2020, the crowded labour camps, where most Sri
Lankan low-wage migrant workers in the Gulf resided, became breeding grounds for
COVID-19 and had to be placed in isolation with entry and exit barred. As the year 2020
progressed, lockdowns and other COVID-19 containment measures imposed, coupled
with the contraction of Gulf economies caused by the pandemic-led drastic decline
in oil prices in the world market, resulted in lay-offs, pay-cuts, delays in payments
and other financial issues for migrants belonging to all skill levels. Furthermore, while
certain Gulf countries implemented policies to provide financial support to help their
populations affected by the pandemic, most of these were geared towards benefiting
only citizens and local businesses, and migrant workers were given limited financial
assistance. As a result, the pandemic severely affected Sri Lankan migrant workers and
their families that depend on the remittances they send home.

While the Sri Lankan migrant workers in the Gulf region were negatively affected by
the pandemic-related policies implemented by their host governments, their adverse
situation was further exacerbated by some of the measures taken by the Government of
Sri Lanka that were geared toward controlling the spread of COVID-19 in Sri Lanka. For
instance, Sri Lanka’s border closure from 19 March 2020, expensive private quarantine
packages, and the long waiting list for free government quarantine facilities that were
in place until April 2021 left thousands of migrant workers, predominantly low-income
earning semi-skilled and low-skilled workers, stranded in the Gulf for approximately
a year.

bottom of page