Friday, April 3, 2015

Foreign Ministry must have eye on Embassies

It was really saddened and angry to hear about the behavior and the practice of the Sri Lankan embassies of the Migrant worker receiving countries, especially the safe houses run by those embassies and their staff.
Even after the new government I don’t see proper and systematic interventions in relation to the Migrant workers issue. 2 million citizens are being neglected by the all consecutive governments since 1977.

Stories are continue to be pathetic and no changes. 

Lakshan Dias AAL

Friday, July 19, 2013

Women were asked to raise their skirts

Don't get panicked this hasn't happen but its almost happening. Sri Lankan government requested  its female migrant workers to register with their family background , permission is seeking form husbands and declair their privasy to the state officials.

Those who are familiar with militarization and state interferences in private life, this is not a breaking news !!!! but this is yet an other news.

You better take the copies of the said circulars and read it.  I posses such copy and determine to fight against it legally.

Lakshan Dias- Attorney At Law
SLBFE initiates SMS system to help migrant workers
The Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) initiated a text message system to empower Sri Lankan migrant workers, by enabling them to get in touch with officials in Sri Lanka, if they face any problems in their countries of employment.

Minister of Foreign Employment Promotion, Dilan Perera, addressing a media briefing yesterday, said the Short Message Service (SMS) system was to help migrant Sri Lankan workers to communicate with the Sri Lankan authorities.
There will be officials of the SLBFE's Consolation Division working round the clock, to respond and provide assistance to the people who text seeking help.

A ministry source told Ceylon Today, the SMS system has been introduced to help Sri Lankans who reside far away from the Sri Lankan embassies and are unable to leave the place they are employed in.
The migrant workers must include their passport number in the text message they send, whereupon officials working in Sri Lanka would be able to track down which foreign employment agency sent them overseas, and thereafter track their workplace and provide the required assistance.

The hotline number to which the SMS should be directed will be given to the foreign workers through the Sri Lankan embassies and employment agencies, the ministry official said.

Complaints from Sri Lankan migrant workers

Complaints from Sri Lankan migrant workers

Eligibility: Sri Lankan Nationals

Method of submitting application: The application can be submitted by either personally visiting the Consular Division or by sending it along with other relevant documents by Registered Post. 

Places where application form could be obtained:
Consular Division,
3rd Floor, BOI Building,
Sir Baron Jayathilake Mawatha,
Colombo 01.

Payment for application: None

Time to submit application: 0830 Hrs – 1615 Hrs

Fees paying to obtain this service: None

Necessary Supporting documents: Proof of identity of the applicant/ complainant

Staff Officers in charge of the Service:
Post Name Division Telephone Fax E-mail
Assistant Director
Mr. U. Ahmed Razi Consular Division 011-5646989 011-2473899

Application Form:
Only a request letter

Undocumented Sri Lankan migrant workers in Saudi Arabia gets extended amnesty period to leave

Tue, Jul 2, 2013, 10:36 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.
July 02, Colombo: A royal order issued by King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has extended the amnesty period for undocumented migrant workers in the Kingdom to correct their status by four months.
The extended grace period until 4th of November will allow the illegal migrant workers to leave the country without a penalty. The original three-month grace period was to end on July 4.
Around 14,000 Sri Lankan migrant workers registered at the Sri Lankan Embassy in Riyadh during the three-month amnesty to leave the kingdom or to legalize their status and only 2,400 out of that have returned to Sri Lanka.
Minister of Foreign Employment and Promotion Welfare, Dilan Perera has said that a special programme has been set in place to bring all the overstaying employees back during the extended grace period.
The Embassy in Riyadh has been operating round the clock to assist the Lankan migrant workers, the Minister has said.
Several embassies and consulates as well as Saudi business groups have asked for an extension of the deadline, saying the July 4 deadline was not enough considering the huge number of expatriates seeking to take use of the amnesty program.
During the amnesty period the overstaying Sri Lankans are asked to report to the Saudi Immigration and Emigration Department to obtain a pass to leave the country without being punished.
Minister Perera said the employees who come back to Sri Lanka during this grace period will be able to apply again legally for jobs in the Kingdom.

Training programmers for Sri Lankan migrant workers to West Asia commenced

Sun, Jul 14, 2013, 10:20 pm SL Time, ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka.
July 14, Colombo: The foreign employment authority in Sri Lanka has commenced training programs for local migrant workers to West Asian countries.
The Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau (SLFEB) has said that the programme is currently limited to workers going to Saudi Arabia.
SLFEB Deputy General Manager Mangala Randeniya said the programme will expand by 2014 to workers going to other West Asian countries as well.
He noted that the SLFEB had taken about five years to develop the training programme, including a one-year test run and the Bureau expected it to take time to expand the programme to domestic workers travelling to other West Asian countries.
According to the SLFEB, there are currently 25 training centers across the country and the training programme consists of a vocational training module which teaches workers how to perform tasks such as housekeeping, laundry work and home gardening; a foreign language module and a common competency module that discusses pre-departure preparation, work attitudes and financial management.
This module is to also cover possible obstacles in and out of the workplace, and how to overcome them.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Migrant Workers and Tri Lingual Language policy Sri Lanka as a country heading towards tri lingual language Policy, there is a ministry for that and ministry seems to be getting funds as well. The most importnat segment of Sri Lankan Labour of Sri Lanka is being neglected by the state. There are no proper Language facilities for tamil language Speakers at the Sri Lanka Foriegn Employment Bureau premises and its staff, compare to Singhala speaking staff the tamil speaking staff is very small. At the Colombo air port in many instances i witness that the Bureau desk function without Tamil speaking officers, Large number of Migrant Workers are from North and East region and mainly from tamil Speaking background but hardly there are any tamil Speaking oficers its the same in all migrant worker related government bodies. This is another clear descrimination on Migrant Workers Lakshan Dias Attorney at Law

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Migrant workers pension scheme: Silent theft

By Lakshan J.S. Dias
Migrant workers are the most innocent and victimised community in Sri Lanka where there is no proper organisation for their rights or benefit. The institution created for their benefit is the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) which is a questionable entity whether they really act on behalf of the migrant workers. Now the government has triggered another problem through a pension scheme.
The Overseas Employees’ Pension Benefits Fund is a bogus scheme similar to the recently-failed private sector pension scheme. However the Government will not receive any strong opposition from migrant workers for the following reasons – the number one being that the person concerned doesn’t live in Sri Lanka and therefore is physically incapable of opposing the scheme as the bare minimum protest.

Therefore it will be easy go for the Government. Secondly the number of beneficiaries are huge but scattered all over the world and who will be dealt individually. No collective bargaining power for them.
NGOs working for migrant workers are really small. The Bill proposes that there should be a minimum contribution that’s Rs 24,000 and the contribution can be much larger and long term. Generally a migrant worker serves in a foreign country for four years and sometimes six years but those who work abroad more than six years is much less. But this scheme will encourage people to serve more years to get a larger pension. So the migrant workers will stay abroad many more years leaving their families behind, to benefit from an increased pension.

The Pension Fund is to be managed under one commissionaire - either the SLBFE Chairman or nominee of the Chairman. The Chairman (or nominee) is the authority for many decisions including the determination of pension amounts and if anyone is dissatisfied they have to follow a long legal process provided in the proposed Act, which a migrant worker won’t have the resources to do and strength to challenge. Therefore the chairperson can deprive workers of their rights by deciding lesser amounts. The fund according to the proposed Act encourages investments in government securities which shows that this will really benefit the Government to maintain its expenditure in various state projects. Losses in such investments will not apply any liability to the chairperson nor designated officers. The proposed Act has many serious gender equality violations even though the majority of the migrant workers are women. The entire proposed Act defines the beneficiaries/officials as ‘he, his, him and chairman, etc’.

At least the language need to be refined in these modern days. Very importantly the age is the main issue, similar to the private sector pension scheme. Pension entitlements for migrant workers start at 65 years. The life expectancy of Sri Lankans is 70-72 years and therefore the maximum pension can be around seven years. If someone contributes for more than seven years they might not even receive the amount that have contributed. The pension is mainly targeted to the contributor and if the contributor needs to extend the benefits to the kids then they should marry at the age of 47 or 50 years. For women that’s the age that they cannot bear children. In general Sri Lankan women have children at the age of 20-35 and none of them can think of any benefit for their children unless they are medically unfit. But even for such children its only a lump sum equivalent to 60 % of the amount lying to the credit of the member’s individual account that shall be paid to such dependent. If there is more than one dependent, such amount will be divided among the dependents in equal shares. The ‘Chairman’ has to certify the payment in every case while the dissatisfied have to go to a tribunal created under the scheme or to Court of Appeal.

The ‘Chairman’ or Minister can always maintain the interest rate at around 3% as there is only a minimum interest rate mentioned and there is no certainty in it. It’s hard to believe that migrant workers will join this scheme voluntarily; if so why should the Government introduce such a scheme and will the Government be satisfied with voluntary contributors after contributing Rs 1 billion from state funds even though that is only a bond similar to the other failed one? Recently a Minister was reported as saying that hereafter employers will meet incoming migrant workers not at the airport of the receiving country but the embassy or consulate of Sri Lanka and documents must be signed there. In such a situation, the Embassy or consulate can insist (or goad) workers (or even employers) to contribute to the pension scheme. At that stage migrant worker won’t have any option other than agreeing.

The provision:“The contributions of a member of the Fund and of his employer in respect of him and the interest on such contribution shall be credited by the Monetary Board to the individual account of such member,” clearly indicates that in future the Government will ensure that either employer or employee must contribute to the scheme or both as they have no option rather than agree since they already made the decision to start a new job in a receiving country. Sometimes employers might agree to contribute to the pension but deduct the amount from the migrant workers which prevails in Hong Kong where employers pay a levy for migrant workers and that is reduced from the salary of the migrant workers, indirectly.

While a pension scheme for migrant workers is justified, the government has neglected and marginalized this worker segment and is only interested in the earnings as a foreign exchange input. Gradually the Government will impose compulsory contributions to the migrant workers through the system of signing agreements at the Bureau and embassy involvement in employer-employee match making.

Further this contribution is apart from the levy of the SLBFE.If a worker earns Rs 20,000 a month the contribution is 5% and this is huge for them as well as output will be very small if someone contributes for five years. The full amount lying in his/her individual account will be around Rs 120,000 and if that person receives a pension at the age of 65, it will be around Rs 2000 or a little more while the worker has to wait 10 years to get the pension. On the other hand, the minimum funds (available to the Government) would be Rs 2 billion per month if every worker contributes.

There are around two million migrant workers living abroad with nearly 1.7 million registered under the SLFBE. The annual input would be Rs 24 billion of which the Fund gets a 10-year definite investment time as anyone has to wait 10 years or more to receive benefits. The pension amount is also unclear and is to be determined by the ‘Chairman’. Accountability of the chairman and the officers and Monetary Board is vague even though the Government auditor audits it and everyone is well aware of how other state institutions respond to government audits. The decision of getting the support of Grama Sevakas, AGAs and other village officers into the decision -making of verifying the payment holders existing can lead to corruption and conflict.

(The writer is a lawyer and campaigner for the rights of migrant workers. He could be reached at

Alleged rapist freed

A Sri Lankan man who was arrested in Jordan over the weekend over allegations of rape and abuse of women at a garment factory, has been set free, the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights said.

Charles Kernaghan, director of the institute told News that Anil Shantha was freed yesterday and he is now back at the same garment factory in Jordan.

“Anil Santha was imprisoned for rape on Saturday, June 18. A young Bangladeshi woman testified before a prosecutor at the Criminal Investigation Department of Jordan's Public Security Directorate. The young woman described in great detail how Anil brutally raped her several times, tearing off her dress and biting her--which even a month later left a visible bruise. But after two days in prison, Anil was freed and today, Tuesday, June 21, he was again walking around the Classic factories. The women workers from Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are extremely terrified that he will take revenge on them,” Charles Kernaghan said.

Anil Shantha, is the General Manager at the Classic factory in Jordan and was mentioned in a report by the US based Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights.

The report had said that scores of young Sri Lankan women suffered routine sexual abuse and repeated rapes, and in some cases even torture at the factory and Shantha was named as one of the rapists.

Charles Kernaghan told News that it was either tremendous incompetence or corruption of the Jordanian police or prosecutors that allowed Shantha to walk free.

“We will continue to pursue Anil Santha, who deserves to be imprisoned for life. We will demand that the wealthy U.S. apparel companies like Wal-Mart and Hanes pay compensation to Anil's victims,” Charles Kernaghan said.

The garment factory in Jordan supplies material Wal-Mart and Hanes, two major US stores.

(Report by Easwaran Rutnam for News

SL women ‘routinely raped’ in Jordan

Scores of young Sri Lankan women working in a garment factory called ‘Classic Factory’ in Jordan sewing clothing for world renowned clothing outlets have suffered routine sexual abuse and repeated rapes, and in some cases even torture, a report released by an organization called Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights said.

Issuing a full detailed report, the US based organization said, quoting one of the young rape victims at the factory, that, “Women who refuse the sexual advances of Classic's managers are also beaten and deported.”

“On the weekly holiday, the alleged serial rapist, who is also a Sri Lankan, sends a van to bring four or five young women to his hotel, where he abuses them.

The lives of the young Sri Lankan rape victims are completely shattered, as in their culture, virginity is highly prized and critical for a good marriage,” the report stated.

In October 2010, 2,400 Sri Lankan and Indian workers went on strike demanding the removal of the alleged rapist. Classic's owner sent this particular manager away, but he returned after one month, it said.

It also said that, through the Institute’s National Labour Committee's reports, the Ministry of Labour had been made aware of the sexual abuse as early as 2007, but had done nothing.

“The standard shift at Classic is 13 hours a day, six and seven days a week, with some 18 ½ hour shifts before the clothing is shipped to the U.S. According to witness testimonies, workers are routinely cursed at, hit and shortchanged of their wages for failing to reach their mandatory production goals. To press the women to work faster, managers grope and fondle them.” The workers-who are from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Egypt, earn a take-home wage of just 61 cents an hour.

“One Bangladeshi worker recently deported from the Classic factory said that, "all the workers of Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh...everybody will testify that this particular manager raped the Sri Lankan women. Everybody knows. In a safe place, the workers will testify,” the report also stated.

Full report:

Jordan probing abuse claims

The Jordan labour minister started investigating allegations of sexual abuse, torture and rape against foreign workers in a garment factory in Jordan’s Al Hassan Industrial Estate (QIZ) reported by a US-based labour advocacy group.

The 82-page report, issued by the Institute for Global Labour and Human Rights (IGLHR), cited testimonies compiled via interviewing foreign workers at Classic Fashion in Al Hassan Industrial Estate alleging systematic rape and torture practised against young Sri Lankan women by compatriots in charge of the outlet.

The ministry’s director of inspection and safety, Adnan Rababaa, told The Jordan Times yesterday that the ministry is dealing with the accusations mentioned in the report with utmost concern and will take action if it finds grounds for these charges.

“We formed an ad hoc committee comprising members of all concerned entities who have already started arbitrary interviews with the labourers in this particular company in order to verify the accusations in the report,” Rababaa said, adding that the ministry will officially respond to the IGLHR report within the coming few days after the investigative committee concludes its mission.

He noted that the interviews with the workers are taking place in the presence of translators in order to ensure better understanding by the workers of the committee’s task force, adding that ministry investigators take all precautionary measures to ensure the workers’ safety from employers’ retaliation.

Investigation in to maid torture

By Gandhya Senanayake

The Sri Lankan Bureau of Foreign Employment has requested Lebanese officials to conduct a criminal investigation in to the alleged torture of a Sri Lankan maid, after she was forced to gulp down iron nails by her previous employer, the Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau told Daily Mirror online

The maid identified as Malkanthi had reportedly told her new employer that she was forced to swallow nails by her previous employer, after which she was admitted to the hospital, the Chairman of the Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau, Kingsly Ranawaka told Daily Mirror online

He added that all steps were being taken by Sri Lankan officials in Lebanon to look into the welfare of the maid and that she had requested to stay at her new employers residents to continue her employment.

A medical check up had been carried out on the maid and the nails had been removed, the SLFEB said. (Daily Mirror online)