Sri Lanka ends Russians’ long-stay visa amid backlash over ‘whites only’ policy

Sri Lanka has asked thousands of Russians and Ukrainians living in the island nation on lapsed extended visas due to the Ukraine war to leave within two weeks, according to officials.

The decision came amid a backlash on social media over Russian-run businesses running illegally and operating with a “whites only” policy with no locals allowed.

Immigration authorities have issued a notice to Sri Lanka’s Tourism Ministry that Russian and Ukrainian tourists should leave the island nation within two weeks beginning February 23 as their visas have expired, officials were quoted by news agency PTI as saying.

The Sri Lankan Tourism Ministry said they received complaints of Russians and Ukrainians staying in Sri Lanka for longer periods and setting up their restaurants and nightclubs, employing foreigners, and using payment methods for services, bypassing local systems.

Sri Lankan Tourism Minister Harin Fernando told Daily Mirror that the ministry had received complaints about some Russians running illegal businesses in the southern part of the country.

He said raids were conducted after consultations with the immigration department, The Independent reported.

However, President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s office issued a notice that ordered a probe over the decision to ask Ukrainians and Russians to leave without Cabinet approval.

The Sri Lankan government has officially not taken a call to revoke the visa extensions granted to Ukrainian and Russian tourists, according to the President’s Media division, PTI reported.

Sri Lanka, which is recovering from its worst financial crisis since 2022, began granting 30-days visa on arrival and extensions for tourists for up to six months in a move to resurrect the tourism sector, according to The Independent.

Thousands of Russian and Ukrainian tourists were permitted to stay in Sri Lanka following the war between the two European countries in February 2022. According to official data, nearly 300,000 Russians and 20,000 Ukrainians have arrived in the island nation since then.

However, the official number of Russians and Ukrainians staying in Sri Lanka on extended visas was not available. According to authorities, the decision to allow them to stay longer was then made due to a shortage of flights.

Published By:

Prateek Chakraborty

Published On:

Feb 28, 2024

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