The US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report for 2013 has placed Sri Lanka in what is described as its Tier 2 Watch List.
TIER 1: Countries whose governments fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards.
TIER 2: Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.
TIER 2 Watch List: Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards, but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards AND:
a) The absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is very significant or is significantly increasing;
b) There is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year; or
c) The determination that a country is making significant efforts to bring itself into compliance with minimum standards was based on commitments by the country to take additional future steps over the next year.
TIER 3: Countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards and are not making significant efforts to do so.
In its country specific report on Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka is primarily a source and, to a much lesser extent, a destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking. Some o f the Sri Lankan men, women, and children (16 to 17 years old) who migrate consensually to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, Malaysia, and Singapore to work as construction workers, domestic servants, or garment factory workers subsequently face conditions indicative of forced labour including restrictions on movement, withholding of passports, threats, physical or sexual abuse, and threats of detention and deportation for immigration violations. Before their departure, many male migrant workers go into debt to pay high recruitment fees imposed by unscrupulous licensed labour recruitment agencies—most of them members of Sri Lanka’s Association of Licensed Foreign Employment Agencies (ALFEA)—and their unlicensed sub-agents; female migrants report being required to pay off recruitment fees through salary deductions in the destination country.
The Sri Lankan government continued limited law enforcement efforts to address human trafficking during the reporting period. Sri Lanka prohibits all forms of trafficking through Article 360(C) of its penal code, which prescribes punishments of up to 20 years’ imprisonment. These penalties are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious offenses, such as rape. The government investigated 44 cases of trafficking in 2012, the same number that was investigated in 2011. The government did not report any prosecutions or convictions for human trafficking under Article 360(C) in 2012 or 2011. Civil society groups report that human trafficking offenses may escape detection, or offenders may be convicted of lesser offenses or civil violations under non-trafficking statutes, due to difficulties in obtaining sufficient evidence and law enforcement officials’ confusion of human trafficking and other crimes, such as smuggling or prostitution.
The Government of Sri Lanka does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. Despite these measures, the government failed to demonstrate evidence of increasing overall efforts to address human trafficking over the previous reporting period; therefore, Sri Lanka is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. Law enforcement efforts and victim protection, particularly identification, were very weak during the reporting period. The government, however, continued modest prevention efforts, including convicting one labor recruiter who committed fraudulent recruitment, continued inter-ministerial coordination, and developed a national action plan. Despite trainings and the partial implementation of victim identification procedures, the government did not report that it identified any trafficking victims. Government officials confused trafficking in persons with other crimes, such as human smuggling, illegal immigration, and prostitution; this confusion impeded law enforcement and victim protection efforts.
The Sri Lankan government made limited progress in its efforts to prevent trafficking during the last year. The government’s inter-ministerial anti-trafficking taskforce continued to meet monthly and developed a 2012 anti-trafficking action plan, which was adopted in March 2012. In December 2012, the Colombo High Court sentenced a recruitment agent, convicted for fraudulent recruitment under Article 360(C), to two years’ imprisonment and a fine, but suspended the sentence. The government imposed a ban on the migration of females younger than 25 years for domestic work in Saudi Arabia and often refused to allow women with young children to migrate for work; evidence shows that bans such as these may drive migration further underground and lead to increased human trafficking. The MCDWA conducted programs to educate women on human trafficking. While the SLBFE continued to require migrant domestic workers with no experience working in the Middle East to complete a 12-day pre-departure training course, this did not always happen in practice. Furthermore, the majority of returning migrants who had taken the course reported that the pre-departure training they received was not helpful in their destination country. Sri Lanka is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.