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Sri Lanka ends visas for Russian, Ukrainain tourists

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Sri Lanka has told Russians and Ukrainians staying in the country to leave in two weeks, according to media reports.

The immigration controller of the island nation has issued a notice to the tourism ministry asking Russian and Ukrainian people staying on extended tourist visas to leave Sri Lanka within two weeks from February 23.

The decision came amid reports of Russians running businesses illegally and operating a “whites-only” policy.

The tourism ministry claims they received complaints of Russians and Ukrainians setting up their restaurants and nightclubs, employing foreigners, and using payment methods for services, bypassing local systems.

Sri Lankan Tourism Minister Harin Fernando said raids were conducted after consultations with the immigration department.

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Recently one of the nightclubs in Galle planned a whites-only party and this drew social media outrage.

The Russian Embassy in Colombo was quick to condemn the event and called upon its citizens to follow local laws and customs, NBC reports.

Over 288,000 Russians and nearly 20,000 Ukrainians have travelled to the island nation in the last two years since the war began, The Independent reports quoting official data.

However, it is not clear how many have stayed back.

Commissioner-General of Immigration said visa extensions are not being granted as flights have been normalised. The Lankan government was reportedly extending visas due to the paucity of flights.

The Russia-Ukraine war recently completed two years and the fighting continues.

President’s office probe

However, fearing a diplomatic backlash, the office of Sri Lankan president Ranil Wickremesinghe ordered an investigation of the notice to the tourism ministry.

The president’s office said that the notice had been issued without prior cabinet approval.

In a bid to boost tourism and recover from its worst economic crisis since 2022, Sri Lanka began granting 30-day visas on arrival and extensions for up to six months.

In April 2022, the nation defaulted on its £36 billion foreign debt.

The economic crisis triggered violent street protests for several months, and the then-president Gotabaya Rajapaksa was forced to step down.

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