US notes efforts by Sri Lanka to address human trafficking

The Government of Sri Lanka does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so, the US State Department said in its latest report on human trafficking worldwide.

The ‘Trafficking in Persons Report 2017’ states the Sri Lankan Government demonstrated increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period.

As a result of the efforts taken by Sri Lanka the US State Department says Sri Lanka was upgraded to Tier 2 in the 2017 report on human trafficking.

“The Government demonstrated increasing efforts by establishing new antitrafficking units and creating a special police division for the protection of witnesses and victims of all crimes. While official complicity in human trafficking persisted, the Government investigated 18 officials for allegedly creating fraudulent documents to provide workers employment abroad, and it prosecuted and convicted more traffickers than in the previous reporting period. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas,” the report said.

The report also said that at times, the Government’s inconsistent identification of victims resulted in the penalization of victims for prostitution and for immigration violations committed as a result of the victim’s subjection to trafficking.

“The Government provided no specialized services to male victims and sometimes housed child victims in Government detention centers. The Government maintained specific requirements for migration of female migrant workers including those migrating for domestic work, which observers stated increased the likelihood women would migrate illegally and therefore heightened their vulnerability to human trafficking,” the report added.

The report says while respecting due process, improve efforts to investigate and prosecute suspected traffickers, including complicit officials, and convict and punish offenders with sentences commensurate with other serious crimes; increase efforts to proactively identify trafficking victims and train officials on victim identification and referral procedures, especially to ensure victims are not detained or otherwise penalized for unlawful acts, such as immigration violations or prostitution, committed as a direct result of having been subjected to human trafficking, Sri Lanka must improve protection services to ensure identified victims, including men and children, receive specialized care services take steps to eliminate all recruitment fees charged to workers by labor recruiters and instead ensure they are paid by employers; expand the bureau of foreign employment’s (SLBFE) mandate to include the regulation of sub-agents; promote safe and legal migration and ensure migration regulations do not discriminate on the basis of gender and increase efforts of the task force to meet regularly with all members to enhance government coordination efforts. (Colombo Gazette)