By Leon Berenger
Sri Lanka is to re-open its diplomatic mission in war-torn Baghdad following reports that some 5,000 Sri Lankans had taken up illegal employment in that country, Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Hussein Bahila said yesterday.
He said the matter was being seriously debated at present in the face of increasing number of Sri Lankan job seekers entering that country.
Sri Lanka closed down its embassy in Baghdad when the US launched its war on Iraq in 2003, but it continued to maintain trade and diplomatic relations with Iraq, once the largest buyer of Sri Lankan tea.“We hope to start off with a consular division after carefully considering the security realities. Our main concern would be the safety of the staff,” Mr. Bahila said adding that the Iraqi government had also urged Sri Lanka to reopen the mission.
At present, Iraq maintains a consulate in Colombo. Despite a government ban on sending Sri Lankans to Iraq for employement, thousands of Sri Lankans have found their way into that country to work mainly in US military facilities after paying large fees to local job agents.