June 28, Colombo: Although the Government of Sri Lanka is making significant efforts to prevent human trafficking, the Government does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, a United States report on human trafficking said.
The 2017 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report released Tuesday (June 27) by the United States Department of State has upgraded Sri Lanka to Tier 2 countries as the government has demonstrated increasing efforts to combat human trafficking compared to the previous reporting period.
Tier 2 countries are the countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.
The 2017 TIP report said the government demonstrated increasing efforts by establishing new ant trafficking units and creating a special police division for the protection of witnesses and victims of all crimes.
It noted that 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 Sri Lankan government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas, it said.
At times, the governmentís inconsistent identification of victims resulted in the penalization of victims for prostitution and for immigration violations committed as a result of the victimís 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 2017 TIP report recommended the government to improve efforts to investigate and prosecute suspected traffickers and convict and punish offenders, including allegedly complicit officials and convict and punish offenders with sentences commensurate with other serious crimes.
Among other recommendations are:
- 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;
-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 employmentís (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.
Full report can be accessed here.