Saturday, January 31, 2009

Seek employment through authorized channels- HC

The Sri Lanka High Commission in Singapore has advised Sri Lankans seeking employment in Singapore to use employment agencies through authorized channels and to register with the High Commission upon arrival in Singapore. He added that in this manner they could obtain maximum benefits.
A Foreign Ministry release said the Sri Lankan High Commission had organized an awareness

programme for around 60 expatriate Sri Lanka female domestic workers in Singapore on the 11th January 2009.
It was the first time such a programme had been held to assist the expatriate Sri Lankan workers in Singapore.
The objective of the programme was to inform the workers of the rights and privileges they were entitled to as well as to provide them with a forum to discuss problems or obtain clarifications from a select panel.
The panel consisted of the High Commissioner, the Counsellor (Employment and Labour Welfare), Mr.Bathiya Sumithrarachchi, Director of the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment and diplomatic staff of the High Commission.
In her opening address, the High Commissioner welcomed the domestic workers and highlighted the important contribution they make to Sri Lanka.
She stated the objective of the programme was to provide workers with an understanding of the services extended by the Labour Section of the High Commission. She added the Mission would be open on Sundays as Sunday was their day off.
She informed the gathering the Mission was fully committed to assist them in every possible manner and advised them to find employment in Singapore through authorized channels and to register with the High Commission upon arrival in Singapore, to obtain maximum benefits. She stated the practice of transferring from one employer to another would not be permitted in future, unless under exceptional circumstances. She emphasized the Mission would take a transparent approach to solving problems arising between domestic workers and employers and would include discussions with all relevant parties. She added that the Mission would also be working closely with the Ministry of Manpower in Singapore to obtain maximum benefits for Sri Lankan expatriate workers.

Lankans paid claims worth Rs. 52 million from ME

Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama has commended the work carried out by Sri Lankan Missions in the Middle-East (ME) for the support they have extended by expediting claims for compensation for Sri Lankans who have died while being employed overseas.
The Minister made this comment when he addressed a simple ceremony held at the Ministry yesterday to hand over cheques for compensation to a batch of next of kin of Sri Lankans who have died in accidents or injuries suffered during their employment in the Middle-East.
Speaking further at the function Minister Bogollagama said “today's event signifies the Foreign Policy adopted by the Foreign Ministry and the Missions abroad".
He commended the Deputy Minister, Hussein A. Bhaila for the guidance provided to the Consular Division of the Foreign Ministry which had been coordinating with Sri Lankan Missions in the Middle-East to obtain the claims for compensation, death dues, end of service benefits, insurance and other dues of Sri Lankans who have died abroad. So far, it has been possible to disburse a record sum of almost Rs. 148 million to the families of the deceased Sri Lankans since 2007.

SL human smugglers nabbed in Thailand

Four Sri Lankan expatriates are being detained at the Immigration Office in Jomtien in Thailand. On the 20th of January they were charged with being members of a gang of people smugglers.
The four aged between 21 and 45 are to be charged for trafficking fellow Sri Lankans to western countries via Thailand.
They four-some were arrested in a room in the Jomtien Complex after one of the victims -Kumar aged 24- reported the scam to the police. He complained that he and his friends were being extorted, with demands to hand over 50,000 baht in order get visas to leave Thailand for Romania.
Kumar and his friends had apparently got angry when they were kept waiting for a a long period of time without getting visas.
According to the complainants on enquiring as to the reason for the dalay they had been informed that their visas had not been approved.
Realising they had been duped Kumar reported the matter to the police.
The gang of people smugglers and their victims are to be deported to Sri Lanka. Pattaya People Weekly reported one of the gang members was wanted by the Sri Lankan police for jumping bail on a similar trafficking charge.

14 illegal migrants arrested

By Jude Samantha
Fourteen people -- nine from Jaffna and five from Mudukattuwa and Marawila who were about to set sail to Australia in a trawler were arrested by the Marawila police.
Inquiries revealed that the youth had abandoned the journey and drifted ashore at Marawila when the trawler had developed engine trouble. They were hiding in a house until the engine was repaired when the police arrested them.
Marawila police are on the look-out for a man from Katuneriya who was behind the racket and the trawler crew. The suspects were to be produced in court last morning.

SLBFE raids 5 licensed agencies

The Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) raided five licenced Foreign Employment agencies which had placed at risk foreign job seekers, agency chairman Kingsley Ranawaka said. Mr. Ranawaka told that the “Daily Mirror” the agencies which were raided had collected money from job seekers without approval. He also urged the public to check SLBFE website to gather more information on agencies and other relevant information.

Qatar Govt. to provide Arabic language training to Lankans

On the final day of his official visit to Qatar, Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama met with key Ministers of the Government of the State of Qatar on Monday (12). In his discussions with the Minister of Awqaf, Endowments and Islamic Affairs, Ahmed bin Abdullah Al-Marri, the Foreign Minister requested assistance in terms of working out an appropriate mechanism in order to provide adequate Arabic language training to Sri Lankans coming over to Qatar for employment purposes. Currently, an estimated 130,000 Sri Lankan expatriate workers are employed in the country at various levels both in the private and public sectors.
Having an exposure to the Arabic language, the Minister said, would enable such personnel to interact even better and contribute immensely towards improving inter-personnel communication skills. Minister Ahmed bin Abdullah al-Marri agreed to consider the request favourably. He also agreed to pursue the possibility of signing a wide ranging Cultural Agreement between the two countries during the forthcoming visit of His Highness the Emir of Qatar to Sri Lanka.
Responding to a proposal made by the Sri Lankan Minister, the Minister of Awqaf, Endowments and Islamic Affairs agreed to set up a mechanism towards building an Islamic Centre in Sri Jayawardenapura, Kotte.

The Foreign Minister met with the Minister of Labour, Dr. Sultan Bin Hassen al-Dhabit al-Dousari who briefed him on the excellent contributions made by Sri Lankan expatriate workers in Qatar over the years. He recalled his recent visit to Sri Lanka during which an additional Agreement on Manpower was signed in January 2008 with Sri Lankan Minister of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare. Under Article 16 of this Agreement, a Joint Committee has been established. Both

parties agreed that its joint meeting be held in Colombo in April 2009.
During his call on Sheikh Fahad bin Jassim bin Mohamed al Abdurrahman al-Thani, Minister of Business and Trade, the Foreign Minister emphasized the need for a comprehensive economic element be made part of the agenda for the State Visit of His Highness the Emir of Qatar to Sri Lanka in May this year.
Agreeing to this proposal Minister Abdurrahman al-Thani informed the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister that a draft Economic Cooperation Agreement and a draft Investment Protection Agreement would be submitted to Sri Lanka for consideration.
Such Agreements, he stated, would infuse a sense of confidence for Qatari businessmen to engage with their Sri Lankan counterparts. Minister Abdurrahman al-Thani suggested greater cooperation between the trade chambers of the two countries in order to provide a platform for greater business cooperation. Explaining the mechanism to strengthen the economic cooperation, an initiative to create an Investment Fund between the two countries were discussed.
Investment in agriculture sector has been identified. The cooperation for food security established by Qatar whereby investments are made in foreign countries to ensure Qatar’s food supply, he said that Sri Lanka too could be included in this programme. Minister Bogollagama also met with the Minister of Economy and Finance Yousef Hussein Kamal with whom he held wide ranging discussions.

Suspect who duped women arrested

By Hemanthi Guruge
A woman who duped several women promising them jobs overseas had been arrested and remanded, Chairman of the Foreign Employment Bureau Kingsley Ranawaka said.
Mr. Ranawaka said the suspect had charged Rs. 195,000 from about 15 women promising them employment in Iraq.
However, when the women went to Iraq they were stranded with no employment.
“The victims had met the suspect for the second time and the suspect had attempted to dupe them again,” Mr. Ranawaka told Daily Mirror. The suspect had also made arrangements for the victims to be interviewed by the Foreign Employment Agency in Moratuwa. She was arrested by the investigations unit of the Foreign Employment Bureau and produced in court.


Saturday, January 3, 2009

Protecting migrant workers

Across the Asia-Pacific region, labour migration has brought many benefits to countries of origin and destination, and especially to migrants themselves who generally earn far more than they could at home. But migration also brings risks — in particular exposing workers to exploitation or discrimination. The purpose of this website is to show how ILO can help countries of the region to manage those risks more effectively.
Cambodian worker in Thailand For any country, the best long-run solution to unemployment and poverty is sustained national economic growth — which will generate rewarding jobs at home so that fewer people will need to look for work abroad. Nevertheless, for the foreseeable future many countries in Asia and the Pacific will rely on the opportunities afforded by international migration — which can help reduce levels of unemployment while also generating significant amounts of foreign exchange through remittances. As a result, a number of Asian countries have made efforts to promote overseas employment. At the same time, destination countries have been recruiting workers for particular employment niches that cannot be filled by national workforces.
What the ILO can offer
The ILO is the only international body with a mandate for international labour migration. Our chief function is to set international standards and arrive at other forms of agreement. The most recent of these is the Multilateral Framework on Labour Migration – which comprises a set of principles and best practices that have been formally vetted by our constituents.
The ILO is also unique in that it is a tripartite organization, representing governments, workers and employers organizations. It can thus help build consensus among the social partners in countries of origin and destination, to develop the policies and programmes that will allow them best to govern labour migration. In this way countries can try to ensure that migrant workers do not displace national workers and are not subjected to unfair treatment or abuse.
The ILO can also offer a wealth of information on international migration, as well as technical assistance to countries on many different issues, from training to social security. As an international organization, ILO is also able to foster networking opportunities between governments, employers organizations, trade unions and organizations of migrant workers

14th Asian Regional Meeting

Every four years, the ILO Asian Regional Meeting brings together the political, economic and social actors from some 29 countries in Asia and the Pacific and 11 Arab States in West Asia. At the invitation of the Government of the Republic of Korea, the ILO Fourteenth Asian Regional Meeting (14th AsRM) will be held in Busan, Republic of Korea, at the Busan Exhibition and Convention Centre (BEXCO) from 29 August to 1 September 2006.
The Meeting is focused on the role of productive employment in people-centred development. At the United Nations World Summit in September 2005, world leaders made explicit reference to ILO employment goals and strongly endorsed fair globalization, full and productive employment and decent work for all as “a central objective of our relevant national and international policies as well as our national development strategies, including poverty reduction strategies, as part of our efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals” (paragraph 47 of the Outcome Document). The Meeting is opportune for transmitting and amplifying this international commitment to addressing the global jobs crisis and, very importantly, for focusing on practical outcomes to make decent work a reality in the region.
The overall theme of the 14th AsRM is Realizing Decent Work in Asia. The concept of decent work encompasses employment creation and enterprise promotion, social protection, rights at work and social dialogue. The Meeting will identify the opportunities and challenges for realizing decent work as the main pathway out of poverty and for creating a more productive and equitable society in Asia. In addition to providing a regional platform for the sharing of experiences on these issues, the aims of the Meeting are:
To identify concrete and practical steps to be taken and specific outcomes to be achieved to make decent work a reality in Asia;
To solicit specific commitments to achieve these outcomes, importantly through tripartism and social dialogue and innovative regional partnership efforts; and
To define and support the role of the Office in contributing to these outcomes.
The Director-General of the ILO will present two reports at this 14th AsRM. The first report on Decent work in Asia Reporting on results 2001-2005 describes how the ILO has been helping countries to give people a fair chance at a decent job mainly through efforts at local and national levels. The second report on Realizing decent work in Asia calls on countries to take the next steps to make decent work a reality by going global and regional.
The programme for the Meeting will include the following:
Plenary Sessions: to discuss the Director-General’s reports.
Panel of Heads of State and Government: The proposed topic for the panel is: “Decent work in the 21st century: Asia’s leading role”. Asian Heads of State and Government will share their country’s experience of providing decent jobs for their labour force in a period of turbulent economic, social and demographic change and suggest how regional cooperation can facilitate their efforts.
Panel of Heads of Regional and International Organizations: The proposed topic for the panel is: “Decent work in the 21st century: Making it a reality through strategic partnerships”. The Heads of Regional and International Organizations and senior representatives of workers and employers organizations will highlight examples where strategic partnerships and cooperation among the tripartite partners and with other regional and international organizations and civil society groups at national or regional levels have promoted decent work, identify constraints and suggest ways for strengthening partnerships.
Special Session for Labour Ministers: This session hosted by the Minister of Labour of the Republic of Korea will provide the opportunity for Labour Ministers to discuss the theme of "Developing workers" skills for decent jobs in a globalization context".
Parallel Sessions: to promote active discussion among participants on the following themes:
Competitiveness, productivity and jobs in a globalizing context;
Labour market governance for realizing decent work in Asia;
The Millennium generation: decent jobs for young people;
Labour migration: regional strategy towards implementation of the ILO multilateral framework.
Information Sessions: to report on new and major areas of ILO work:
Follow-up to the Maritime Convention;
Technical Cooperation and Decent Work Country Programmes;
Regional Skills Network of Partner Organizations;
Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health.
A number of Social Events.


Regional Symposium on Deployment of Workers Overseas: A Shared Responsibility

Aims and expected outcomes of the meeting
The Symposium contributes to the attainment of the national action priorities identified in the Fourteenth Asian Regional Meeting held in 2006 in Busan, Republic of Korea, specifically the one on improving dialogue and the management of labour migration so as to benefit both sending and receiving countries and better protect the rights and equal treatment of migrant workers.
The Symposium aims for the following:
Discuss labour migration policies in the region, particularly on recruitment, the scope for state policies, private sector initiatives to influence practices and their outcomes, and their impact on cost of migration and on conditions of employment;
Exchange and share best practices on equipping workers with skills for work in foreign countries, attending to their needs for various on-site services, monitoring their conditions, and responding to emergencies;
Discuss cooperation mechanisms between origin and destination countries with a view to providing more effective protection for migrant workers.
The Symposium addressed the following topics in separate sessions:
Recent developments in labour migration policies as it relates to the ILO Multilateral Framework on Migration;
Fair recruitment practices for safe and regular migration;
Promoting safe migration for women;
Migration infrastructures and effective services to migrants;
Emerging demand for labour and skills development;
Cooperation mechanisms between origin and destination countries.
Ultimately the Symposium hopes to help facilitate the development of more effective and efficient migration management systems in labour sending countries that promote safe and regular labour migration, and contribute to further development of recruitment practices and labour migration management in South Asia.
This symposium was organized with the Bangladesh Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment in close collaboration with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation and the ILO/EU Asian Programme on the Governance of Labour Migration.Further information
Summary and directions for action of the Forum - (pdf, 83Kb)Information Note - (pdf, 41Kb)
Quick links
Programme - (pdf, 117Kb)
Administrative note - (pdf, 66Kb)
Concept note - (pdf, 84Kb)
See also
Fourteenth Asian Regional Meeting
Asian Employment Forum
ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
ILO Asian Programme on the Governance of Labour Migration


Friday, January 2, 2009

Sri Lanka to give incentives for foreign remittances

Foreign Savings
03 Jan, 2009 08:09:54

Jan 03, 2009 (LBO) – Sri Lanka will give incentives to expatriate citizens to bring their saving home in the form of higher interest rates and lower taxes, Central Bank Governor Nivard Cabraal said.
Authorities were also planning to offer an additional 'bonus interest' to supplement the interest income provided by commercial banks to foreign currency account holders, Cabraal said in his annual policy speech.
Expatriate Sri Lankans would also be encouraged to bring home their savings by paying a "reduced tax as the final income tax if some inflows are subject to payment of income tax," he said.
In 2007 foreign hot money from hedge funds, encouraged into the country to bridge a budget deficit flew out of the country after September and the central bank held a rigid peg and underwrote their foreign exchange risk, worsening the problem.
Because the central bank printed money to sterilize the outflows (sterilized intervention), it triggered a balance of payments crisis, where the central bank spent more than a billion dollars in reserves.
The peg has now been abandoned and the exchange rate is adjusting to the demand pressures created by the liquidity injections, but the country has lost more than a third of the reserves.
But a severe crash crunch in the government has led to a new surge of money printing in December, adding more pressure on the rupee.
Governor Cabraal says the country now wants more stable forms of money to come to Sri Lanka.
"It was a lesson to us, and we would like to see more permanent money coming into the country," he said.
The Central Bank will also appoint several commercial banks as 'lead managers' to promote Treasury bills and bonds among Sri Lankan expatriates.
In the domestic market, commercial banks have been reluctant to promote treasury bills compared with their own fixed deposits.
Analysts say similar conflicts of interest may occur where commercial banks are placed in a quandary where they are expected to promote treasury bills against their own non resident foreign currency accounts.
This means a mechanism may have to found to appoint a set of non-bank dealers to promote bills overseas. But there are thin margins in re-selling government securities and most primary dealers make money in large deals and not retail sales.
On the other hand commercial banks that promoted hedge funds into Treasury Securities also made fee income from foreign exchange conversion.

Employment agencies pocketing money: Ambassador

By Sumaiya Rizvi
There are 300 unskilled migrant workers who have been denied their actual wage in Kuwait while the local employment agencies are pocketing their money, the Sri Lankan Ambassador for Kuwait Sarath Dissanayake alleged yesterday.“Employment agencies have cheated the migrant workers and they receive a part of their monthly salary”, Dissanayake said. The unskilled workers should receive 60 Kuwaiti Dinars but they received only 40 Kuwaiti Dinars which is the minimum wage rate and it amounts to Rs. 16,000, Dissanayake said.
According to Dissanayake these employment agencies had made the workers sign sub contracts which permitted the agencies to receive a part of their wage. The issue is in front of the Kuwaiti Labour Tribunal he added.
“Minister Keheliya Rambukwella and the Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau will be taking the fraudulent agencies to task” Dissanayake said.
Meanwhile the Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry and the Sri Lankan embassy in Kuwait are discussing matters relating to the signing of the Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (IPPA), Sarath Dissanayake said.
“This agreement is important to attract investors to Sri Lanka and for preferential trade between the two countries” Dissanayake said.
According to the Ambassador the first round of talks were held in Colombo and they hope to hold the second round of talks in January, 2009 in the Kuwaiti City. “This is an important agreement and countries like India and Pakistan have also entered into similar agreements,” he said.
Dissanayake said that they propose to sign two other MoU’s which deal with semi and unskilled labour and the Non domestic sector. The MOU on non domestic sector will focus on Nurses, Architects, IT Graduates and Quantity Surveyors.


FEB to track down illegal operations: Ranawaka

By Hemanthi Guruge
The Foreign Employment Bureau has decided to categorize all foreign employment agencies in the country this year in a move to track down illegal operations, Chairman of the Foreign Employment Bureau (FEB) Kingsley Ranawaka said.
Addressing a press conference yesterday at the Foreign Employment Training Centre Chairman Kingsley Ranawaka said that the grading scheme will cover all categories including recruitment, dispute settlement, recruitments to new destinations, payment of cess and complaints.He added the agencies will be placed under five categories on a marking scheme. He said that if an agency is receiving a large number of complaints they will be excluded from the scheme.
“Stern action will be taken against fraudulent work of Foreign Employment agencies,” he said. He noted that some agencies had taken commissions and the air ticket fares from both clients and employers. The Foreign Employment Bureau expects to launch a new certificate programme for the licensed agencies shortly he said.

Sri Lankan maid alleges assault by sponsor’s wife

A complaint has been filed at Isa Town Police Station in Bahrain after a Sri Lankan housemaid was allegedly attacked in the Labour Ministry yesterday.
The Bahraini wife of the 28-year-old's sponsor has been accused of slapping her across the face with her handbag and pushing her around.
The alleged attack took place in the arbitration office, when a ministry official left the room to photocopy some documents.
Migrant Workers Protection Society Action Committee head Marietta Dias said the assault only stopped when a worker from a neighbouring office heard the commotion and intervened.
A police officer stationed within the ministry was called but the sponsor's wife left the building before he arrived on the scene.
One of the society volunteers had accompanied the maid, who was originally from the city of Nittambuwa, in western Sri Lanka, to the ministry, but was not in the room as they are not allowed to take part in arbitration meetings.
Ms Dias said she had not come across such a case in more than four decades of work for the organisation. which they say, cost them BD500. (Gulf Daily news)


Don’t give jobs for nannies- Keheliya

Minister of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare Keheliya Rambukwella says housemaids should not be given the job of a nanny, as they are not trained to care for babies.
Rambukwella also says that the Sri Lankan government is looking into the possibilities of employment prospects in countries such as Norway, Poland, Italy and even Japan, where a more systematic mode of remuneration is possible.
"Some housemaids in the Gulf are forced to work 12 to 14 hours a day and don't get a day off. The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the government are in the process of drafting proposals to change this," the minister said.
A media officer at the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE) reveals that there are 1.5 million migrant workers from Sri Lanka in the Middle East and non-Middle East (Cyprus, Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong). In 2007, 52.77 per cent women went as migrant workers. Housemaids, nannies and babysitters fall into the category of the Domestic Sector and last year, 102,176 women went abroad to work in this sector. Of the housemaids who went, 18,446 were between the age of 25 and 29 years and 18,426 were between 35 and 39 years. On an average their salary is 45 Kuwaiti Dinars (US$1=KWD 0.27). Most of these women have little education and are housewives so they do not earn if they remain in Sri Lanka.
SLBFE says, there are 1.4 million Sri Lankan workers in the Gulf, 60 per cent are housemaids and 65 per cent females. "Of these, 15 per cent complain of physical and sexual harassment while 18 per cent complain of non-payment of agreed wages. Twenty per cent complain of lack of communication between employer and employee," said the SLBFE media officer."
In 2007, we received 1,273 complaints of sexual and physical harassment. Our policy is to contact the Embassy and send for a report to the sponsor's house. We also contact the local agent. If they don't respond, we cancel the licence of the local agent," the officer said.
Talking about the efforts of the SLBFE, the media officer said, "We give compensation in the case of death or permanent disability during the period of registration. We pay LKR 300,000 (US$1=LKR 110.05) for permanent disability and LKR 500,000 in case of death. Death can be due to homicide, accident or, as in most cases, due to natural causes. We have also built a house in Polonnaruwa, in the North Central part of Sri Lanka, for a housemaid whose legs were cut off."

(The New Nation

Two Lankans beheaded in Saudi Arabia

RIYADH, Friday (AFP) - Two Sri Lankans were beheaded by the sword today after being convicted of armed robbery and murdering a Sudanese accountant, the interior ministry said.
The two men were found guilty of shooting dead and robbing Mohammed al-Jakk Mohammed, who worked as a company accountant, as he walked out of a bank in Riyadh, the ministry said in a statement carried by SPA state news agency.
The two beheadings were the first to be announced in 2009, while the tally of decapitations announced by Saudi authorities in 2008 stood at 102.
In 2007, a record 153 people were executed in the country, which applies a strict version of sharia, or Islamic law. That figure compared with 37 in 2006 and the previous record of 113 in 2000.
Rape, murder, apostasy, armed robbery and drug trafficking can all carry the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, where executions are usually carried out in public.
In October, human rights watchdog Amnesty International said the number of executions in Saudi Arabia was surging and that the principal victims were poor migrant labourers and Saudis without connections.

Korea suspends recruiting Lankan workers

The Korean government has suspended till March the recruiting of workers from 15 countries including Sri Lanka owing to the global economic crisis, Foreign Employment Bureau Chairman Kingsley Ranawaka said.
He said the decision was taken as Korea was unable to pay foreign employees but that agreements signed previously and those already employed in Korea would not be affected by the latest move. Mr. Ranawaka said training given to workers in the Korean language had also been suspended. (HG)