Recommendations for the Improvement of Sri Lanka’s Foreign Employment Sector

Submitted to the Minster of Foreign Employment Hon. Thalatha Athukorala at the meeting held on the 03rd December 2015 from 5.00 p.m to 6.00 p.m at the Sri Lanka Parliament.

  • Request the Government to lobby allied nations- esp (US, EU states) to gain support.
  • Request the government to consider implementing a blanket ban on sending migrant workers to Saudi Arabia (following the Indonesian example)
  • Inquire if the Government has a grading system for countries where migrant workers travel to based on their human rights records, whether they are signatories of international legal instruments relating to rights of migrant workers, domestic legal protections available for migrant workers, working conditions and cases of abuse. 
  • Request the government to scale down (if a blanket ban is not possible) the travel of migrant workers to those countries ranked lowest in the above scale.
  • Request the government to publsh the above grading of countries for public information
  • Request the Government of Sri Lanka to ratify the relevant conventions (Migration for Employment Convention 1949, Migrant Workers Convention, 1975)
  • Request to revisit the 2012 circular which states that mothers of children under 5 will not be recommended to migrate while females with children above 5 years will only be recommended for migration if satisfactory alternative care arrangements are in place to ensure the protection of children. 

The fact that they have small children, or that many domestic workers suffer abuse, exploitation and other human rights violations- including the tragic execution of Rizana Nafeek, cannot be used as a reason to deny them the right to leave their country, provided for in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Sri Lanka.

  • Inquire steps the government plans to take on transitioning from low-skilled labor to high skilled labor.
  • Request to have migrant workers and civil society represented in the board of the Foreign Employment Bureau.
  • Enhance cooperation with destination States to ensure that the rights of Sri Lankans are respected during the whole migration process.
  • Pursue the conclusion of legally binding bilateral agreements with all destination States. These agreements should conform to the international human rights instruments and include a uniform model contract for all workers, including domestic workers, which should ensure respect for and protection of their human rights. Labour contracts based on such model should specify the job description, wages and labour conditions
  • Pre-departure training and information is already provided to prospective migrants. However, some migrants note that these trainings are insufficient. Training and information sessions should be enhanced in order to ensure that migration decisions are well-informed, and that migrants know their rights and how to seek help or lodge a complaint.
  • The contract should be translated into a language that the migrant understands, that he/she be given a copy of the contract, and receive information on how to complain if the contract is not respected.
  • Welcome the appointment of labour welfare officers to serve in Sri Lankan missions abroad. However, welfare services and consular assistance provided to Sri Lankan migrants in the destination State should be strengthened, particularly in countries with high numbers of Sri Lankan workers. Embassies should have female officers to deal with cases of sexual abuse, provide a local 24/7 hotline free of charge, establish a roster of competent local lawyers, and conduct frequent visits to migrant detention centres.
  • Sri Lanka would find it easier to negotiate the legal protection of Sri Lankan domestic workers abroad if they too developed legal protection mechanisms for domestic workers in in Sri Lanka. Such protection should include a law on domestic workers and ratification of ILO Convention 189.
  • While welcoming the increased focus on the effective reintegration of returned migrants, as per the national labour migration policy, noting that some returnees report insufficient reintegration services, most importantly for those who may have experienced abuse.
  • Create income-generating opportunities in Sri Lanka, especially for women, youth and minorities, including in rural areas, in order to ensure that migration is a choice, rather than a necessity. Microcredits to start a business would be one such initiative.

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