Equipping Sri Lanka to counter trafficking in persons

The Project aims to reduce human trafficking in Sri Lanka by intervening via a three pronged approach (3P’s) : Prevention, Protection and Prosecution through conducting research and awareness to inform regulations and practice, ensuring fair and ethical business recruitment practices are adopted, improving protection services for identified victims and prosecuting and investigating offenders.

A considerable proportion of the Sri Lankan labour force migrates in search of better pay and work opportunities abroad. For most it is a positive and rewarding experience. However, uninformed and ill-prepared migration have created a dangerous vacuum in which human traffickers are able to exploit migrant workers.

Figures from the government mandated authority on migration indicate that 263,307 women and men migrated overseas for employment in 2015 contributing 40 per cent of the country’s annual foreign exchange earnings. Most of these migrants found semi and low-skilled jobs in the GCC countries.

The above migration patterns play a pivotal role in the trafficking situation in the island state something that has thus far gone predominantly unaddressed in the local narrative, and a gap that this project shall bridge. As the 2016 TIP report notes, “Many migrant workers go into debt to pay high recruitment fees imposed by unscrupulous labour recruitment agencies, only to be trapped in debt bondage on arrival at their destination”. Vulnerable communities, often faced with a dearth of decent local employment opportunities, feel compelled to seek jobs overseas, and are thereafter subjected to misleading information, exorbitant recruitment fees from both licensed agencies and unlicensed recruitment intermediaries.