US keeps Sri Lanka on watch list in human trafficking report

Secretary-Kerry-SFRCThe United States has kept Sri Lanka on a watch list in the latest human trafficking report released by US Secretary of State John Kerry today.

The report states that Sri Lanka is primarily a source and, to a lesser extent, a destination country, for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.

Some of the Sri Lankan men, women, and children who migrate to the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Afghanistan to work in the construction, garment, and domestic service sectors are subjected to forced labor.

Before leaving Sri Lanka, many migrant workers go into debt to pay high recruitment fees imposed by unscrupulous labor recruitment agencies—most of them members of Sri Lanka’s Association of Licensed Foreign Employment Agencies—and their unlicensed sub-agents.

Migrant laborers receive a monetary advance as an incentive to move abroad, only to be trapped in debt bondage upon arrival at their destination. Some recruitment agencies commit fraud by changing the agreed upon job, employer, conditions, or salary after the migrant’s arrival. Some Sri Lankan women are subjected to forced prostitution in Jordan, Maldives, Malaysia, Singapore, and elsewhere.

Within the country, the report says women and children are subjected to sex trafficking in brothels. Boys are more likely than girls to be forced into prostitution in coastal areas for child sex tourism. Children, individuals with physical deformities, and those from socially vulnerable groups are forced to beg or engage in criminal activity in Sri Lanka’s largest cities. Some child domestic workers in Colombo, generally from the Tamil tea estate sector, are subjected to physical, sexual, and mental abuse, non-payment of wages, and restrictions of movement—indicators of labor trafficking. A small number of women from Asia, Central Asia, Europe, and the Middle East have been subjected to forced prostitution in Sri Lanka in recent years. Police accept bribes to permit brothels to operate, some of which exploit trafficking victims. Sub-agents collude with officials to procure fake or falsified travel documents to facilitate travel of Sri Lankans abroad.

The report says the Government of Sri Lanka does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. During the reporting period, the Government ratified the 2000 UN TIP Protocol and the Cabinet approved the Government’s national action plan to combat human trafficking.

Despite these measures, the report says the Government did not demonstrate overall increasing anti-trafficking efforts compared to the previous reporting period; therefore Sri Lanka is placed on Tier 2 Watch List for the fourth consecutive year.

Per the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, Sri Lanka was granted a waiver from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3 because its Government has devoted sufficient resources to a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute significant efforts to meet the minimum standards.(Colombo Gazette)