Background to press conference
In the recent past, there has been an increase in the number of women migrating. Many of them go to the Middle East as migrant workers and the majority among them are Muslim, Sinhala and Tamil women.
It is common knowledge that these migrant workers, whether they are from rural areas or urban areas, tend to be ignorant of the conditions and challenges that lie ahead when they migrate. With great hopes and expectations of earning money to send and take home, they are usually drawn towards countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, etc. However we know through past experiences of organizations as well as through media reports that from the time they decide to migrate, all through their stay and long after they’ve returned to Sri Lanka, these women have to suffer violence, cruelty, unfair treatment and psychological abuse.
As members of civil society it is our responsibility too to ensure that there is an appropriate environment for them to migrate and carry on their employment safely and with no harm to themselves. Although the state has introduced certain mechanisms to safeguard the rights of migrant workers, there are instances where they fall short. It is our duty to assist the state in ensuring that these mechanisms are properly in place and are executed efficiently. We called this press conference because we feel that the existing mechanisms need to be strengthened in order to ensure the safety of migrant workers.
Some of the organizations represented were American Solidarity Center, Art TV, The Sunday Times, Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation, National Trade Union Federation, Migrant Services Centre, Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment and Legal Aid Foundation.
Mr. Kalyanapriya Ramanayake, Head of the media unit of the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE)spoke of the status of Sri Lankan migrant workers and also spoke of the facilities provided by SLBFE.
Mr. K. Velaiuthen of NTUF, Mrs. U.R.K. Manike from the Migrant Services Centre and Ms. Nilakshi Kumari from the Legal Aid Commission spoke at the press conference and there was a discussion between the media personnel present and participants from Non Governmental Organizations.
Sinhala and Tamil translations of Convention No. 189 of the ILO were distributed at this meeting.
It was discussed that since this issue needs to be discussed on a much broader scale, the Ministry of Labour should play a more active role to ensure that it happens.
The need to conduct a larger discussion.