Migrant workers urged to register and reduce trafficking risks

COLOMBO – Migrant workers who are leaving for foreign jobs without registering or on visit visas are at higher risk of getting into trouble officials said, as a sex-trafficking ring in Oman involving young women from Sri Lanka was uncovered.

D. D. P. Senanayaka, General Manager, Foreign Employment Bureau (SLBEF), said the authorities can track the wellbeing of the locals going for foreign employment who registered with the bureau.

“We have observed that these people who are in trouble have gone to these countries through informal ways rather than following the legal procedures, which could have given them the protection,” Senanayaka told reporters on Monday (21).

“These people have no assurance of a job when they go,” he added.

Locals going abroad after registering with the SLBEF, can be monitored throughout their contract period, but there are no records to track down the Sri Lankans going through informal methods, Senanayake explained.

Since early 2022, as the country fell into the worst currency crisis in the history of the island’s intermediate regime central bank, many are trying to leave the country for foreign jobs.

Sri Lanka is also encouraging state sector employees and the general public to acquire skills to get qualified for foreign jobs, in hopes of increasing the foreign remittances.

Senanayaka said they have now identified thousands of Sri Lankans who have left on visit visas in the hope of securing job.

A minister recently said about 5,000 persons had travelled to Dubai on visit visas.

“We identified 13,231 who went abroad with tourist visas this year and from that more than 700 were prevented from going after identifying they have given false information,” Senananyaka said, adding the the Bureau had taken  information from these people, and were monitoring them in collaboration with immigration department.

It is not clear how authorities can stop a person from leaving on a visit visa as Sri Lanka is signatory to UN conventions on free movement of people.  And there is no requirement for an exit visa unlike some ‘iron curtain’ nations in the past.

Meanwhile, complaints have be received from Sri Lankans in Oman about sex trafficking of young women.

An employee of the SLBEF was also arrested in Muscat, accused of mistreating or abusing women in a shelter that is being maintained by the embassy.

Senananyaka said, currently 77 women are in the shelter under the protection of the embassy.

He said the shelter was meant for migrants who registered with the SLBEF, but that 12 of the 77 currently in the facility had arrived in Oman illegally. “However since they are Sri Lankans we have taken them in until matters are resolved,” Senanayaka said.

According to authorities 19,000 Sri Lankans are currently working in Oman.



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