Cablegate: Sri Lanka: The Eighth Annual Anti-Trafficking in Persons
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 06 COLOMBO 000215
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DEPARTMENT FOR G/TIP, G, INL, DRL, PRM, SCA/RA
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SUBJECT: SRI LANKA: THE EIGHTH ANNUAL ANTI-TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS
REF: STATE 02731
1. (U) Mission's submission for the eighth annual Anti-Trafficking
in Persons (TIP) Report for Sri Lanka follows. Responses are keyed
to questions in Reftel. Mission point of contact is poloff Amy
Trimble, telephone +94-11-249-8822, fax +94-11-249-8820.
Paragraph 27: Sri Lanka Overview
2. (SBU) A -- Sri Lanka is a country of transit, a source country,
and a destination country for a small number of internationally
trafficked men, women and children. Women and children of Sri Lanka
are trafficked internally for domestic labor and sexual
exploitation. The trafficking takes place in government-controlled
areas as well as in areas controlled by the Liberation Tigers of
Tamil Eelam (LTTE), a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization
under U.S. law. The LTTE has conscripted children, both through
recruitment and abductions, for purposes of forced labor and
military activities. According to a 2007 UN report, the government
has not undertaken adequate efforts to address the anti-LTTE Karuna
faction's recruitment of children into its paramilitary in
government-controlled areas. The GSL has, however, appointed an
inter-ministerial Committee to Inquire into Allegations of Abduction
and Recruitment of Children for Use in Armed Conflict, and has
investigated 47 cases specifically cited by UN Special Adviser on
Children and Armed Conflict Alan Rock. In 37 of those cases, the
children have been returned home. The GSL also operates 2
rehabilitation centers specifically for children involved in armed
conflict, and plans to open three more.
A cont'd -- Reports also indicate that women from Thailand, China,
Russia and countries of the Newly Independent States are trafficked
into Sri Lanka for commercial sexual exploitation. Some Sri Lankan
women are trafficked to the Middle East countries and a smaller
number to Singapore, Hong Kong and South Korea for hard domestic
labor and sexual exploitation. Children are trafficked internally.
There are no reliable statistics available on the magnitude of this
problem. Sources of information on trafficking in persons include
the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA), the Child Protection
Unit of the Attorney General's Department, Sri Lankan Police, local
and international NGOs, and the press.
B -- According to government and NGO sources, trends in trafficking
did not change significantly from the last reporting period.
Despite a law passed in April 2006 to criminalize trafficking in
persons, there were no reliable statistics on the crime of
trafficking disaggregated from human smuggling, illegal immigration,
prostitution, procurement, or kidnapping. Victims subjected to
trafficking generally came from poor, rural communities, with
minimal educational opportunities. Internally Displaced Persons and
war widows remained especially vulnerable. Some women who came to
cities seeking garment industry work were trafficked into commercial
sex work, and some women seeking employment as domestics overseas
were sent abroad under false promises and forced into exploitative
labor conditions or commercial sex work. Although the Bureau of
Foreign Employment has a mandate to vet recruitment agents,
sub-agents are not vetted. Reports indicated some sub-agents acted
unscrupulously, recruiting women from villages under false
pretenses. The women, often illiterate, were unaware of the
conditions of the contracts they signed, and often their travel
documents were confiscated when they arrived at their place of
employment. However, of the estimated 1 million Sri Lankan women
who obtain foreign employment, statistics indicate only 5 to 10
percent encounter problems. These also include issues unrelated to
trafficking per se.
C -- The Sri Lankan Police, Attorney General's Office, Ministry of
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Foreign Employment, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Child
Development and Women's Empowerment, the Bureau of Foreign
Employment (BFE), and the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA)
increased their involvement in anti-trafficking efforts in 2007. In
July 2007, the Foreign Secretary designated the Secretary of the
Ministry of Child Development and Women's Empowerment as the GSL
focal point on trafficking-related issues. The above-mentioned
agencies participated in a seminar in December 2007, hosted by the
Secretary for Child Development and Women's Empowerment, which
focused on improving GSL awareness and coordination on TIP. The GSL
has welcomed U.S. efforts to fund IOM projects that provide law
enforcement training on TIP and a case management database to better
track TIP data.
D -- The government lacked resources to provide proper training to
law enforcement officials or adequate compensation or support for
trafficking victims. Law enforcement officials addressed the end
results of trafficking such as commercial sex work or child labor.
However, trafficking itself was rarely investigated, perhaps due to
police unawareness of the degree of the problem, exacerbated by
limited resources. The GSL's current law enforcement priority is
its fight against terrorism. As the country's ethnic conflict
continues to escalate, police are focused on preventing LTTE attacks
against civilians. Nonetheless, with a better database and improved
training of law enforcement officials, the government expects to
increase law enforcement actions against trafficking.
E -- The Child Protection Unit of the Attorney General's Office and
the NCPA conducted a survey in 2007 on commercial sexual activities
involving children, but the report has not yet been published.
Currently no reliable surveys on trafficking in Sri Lanka are
available. The government does not maintain separate statistics on
human smuggling, abductions, and trafficking, making it difficult
for NGOs to gain access to accurate data. IOM, with U.S.-funding,
is currently working with the GSL to develop a case management
database to more closely monitor trafficking cases.
Paragraph 28: Investigations and
Prosecution Of Traffickers
3. (SBU) A -- In April 2006, the government amended the penal code
through Act No 16, criminalizing all forms of trafficking in
persons. The new legislation, developed in consultation with IOM,
brought Sri Lanka's penal code in line with UN guidelines on TIP.
Section 360C of the Penal Code, amended by Act No. 22 of 1995,
criminalizes trafficking in persons, defined as the buying or
selling or bartering of a person for money or other consideration,
and also engaging in certain acts for the purpose of promoting,
facilitating or inducing the buying or selling or bartering or the
placement in adoption of any person for money or any other
consideration. Under Section 360A of the Penal Code, internal and
transnational forms of prostitution are also criminalized.
Additionally, Section 45A(1) of the Immigrants and Emigrants Act
addresses human smuggling offenses.
B -- Trafficking for sexual exploitation is punishable by
imprisonment between 2 and 20 years, with fines ranging from
approximately USD 100 to 500. There were no convictions for sex
trafficking during the reporting period.
C -- The April 2006 amendment to the penal code covering trafficking
calls for labor exploitation to be punishable by 2 to 10 years'
imprisonment. It also establishes the punishment for debt bondage,
serfdom, forced or compulsory labor, or slavery as imprisonment for
a term not exceeding twenty years and a monetary fine. When
children are the victims of such crimes or are recruited for
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involvement in armed conflict, the punishment is imprisonment for a
term not exceeding thirty years and a monetary fine. A creditor
cannot require manual labor in exchange for debt repayment. There
were no convictions for labor trafficking during the reporting
D -- For sexual assault, imprisonment ranges between 7 and 20 years,
plus potential monetary compensation to the victim. These penalties
are similar to those for trafficking.
E -- In Sri Lanka, prostitution is not legalized and the activities
of prostitutes are criminalized. The activities of related parties,
such as brothel owners, pimps, clients, and enforcers, are also
criminalized. These laws are not regularly enforced, in part because
law enforcement is focused on preventing terrorism.
F -- NGO representatives noted that the government does not usually
use existing anti-trafficking legislation to prosecute cases.
Rather, perpetrators are brought up on charges of human smuggling.
(Note: The Attorney General's office noted that trafficking in
persons is a bailable offense under the penal code. Further, few
Sri Lankans are ever convicted of any offense once they receive
bail. Human smuggling is not a bailable offense, but carries a
lighter maximum sentence.) The government launched a criminal
investigation of the recruitment agent responsible for sending
housemaid Rizanna Nafeek abroad when she was underage. The GSL is
also investigating a subagent involved in a case where three Muslim
children were trafficked abroad. According to the Legal Division of
the Foreign Employment Bureau, disciplinary action was taken against
350 labor recruiters engaging in fraudulent recruitment practices,
but no criminal investigations were launched. The Women and
Children's Bureau of the Police and the NCPA investigated and acted
on complaints of commercial and non-commercial sex acts involving
children. We are unable to obtain a total number of trafficking
cases investigated or prosecuted during the reporting period from
the police or Attorney General's office. Trafficking crimes are not
disaggregated from other criminal violations and accurate figures on
trafficking-related investigations and prosecutions are not kept.
The lack of convictions for TIP offenses reflects systemic problems
with Sri Lanka's judicial system; the overall conviction rate is
less than 5 percent.
G -- The government does not provide centralized training in
trafficking issues. Individually, police bureaus, such as the
Anti-Human Smuggling Unit of the Criminal Investigation Department
and the Women's and the Children's Bureau, along with the NCPA,
conduct specialized training for their staff. NCPA conducts a
four-hour training course for local police at the In-Service
Training Centers at the district-level Police Training Colleges
where they are able to reach new recruits. On invitation, they will
conduct training at the Police Higher Training Institute or the
Police College. A U.S.-funded IOM project provided specialized
anti-trafficking training to 50 law enforcement officers, who will
in turn train another 500 officers. The Australian government
provided human smuggling training, which covered TIP, to twenty
H - There were no cases of GSL cooperation with other governments in
the investigation and/or prosecution of trafficking cases during the
reporting period. In the past, the government has worked very
closely with the Italian and Pakistani governments to combat human
smuggling operations. In 2005, in cooperation with the American and
the Australian governments, the NCPA prosecuted a U.S. national and
an Australian national alleged to be pedophiles.
I -- The government has not extradited anyone charged with
trafficking to other countries, as the situation has not occurred.
The government would likely extradite any foreigner charged with
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such offenses, if requested by other governments. The government has
extradition agreements with Commonwealth countries.
J -- There is no credible evidence of government involvement in, or
tolerance of, trafficking in persons. Unsubstantiated reports allude
to immigration officers in involvement of such cases.
K -- There has been insufficient evidence to arrest or otherwise
prosecute government officials suspected of being involved in
trafficking in persons.
L -- 108 Sri Lankan peacekeeping soldiers were repatriated in
November 2007 after being accused of sexual misconduct, some cases
involving minors, in Haiti. The GSL has promised to investigate the
M -- The Attorney General's office does not maintain statistics on
cases of foreign pedophiles. In 2004, the government arrested two
foreign nationals, an American and an Australian, on charges of
pedophilia. In 2005, a British citizen was charged with pedophilia.
The American was deported to the U.S. The other two remain in
prison in Sri Lanka awaiting trial. Sri Lanka's child sexual abuse
laws do not have extra-territorial coverage.
Paragraph 29: Protection and Assistance
4. (SBU) A -- The government does not provide assistance, such as
protection from deportation or temporary residency, to foreign
B -- The government does not have the resources, capacity, or
ability to assist victims of trafficking adequately. There are
rehabilitation camps and community centers which offer some medical
and counseling services for victims of trafficking. The GSL runs
five "certified schools" to rehabilitate children trafficked for sex
work. The schools offer counseling and vocational training to
victims. In addition, the GSL operated 13 women's rehabilitation
centers which offer shelter and counseling services to victims of
domestic abuse. Repatriated trafficking victims are also counseled
at these centers. In July 2007, a shelter for female victims of
violence, including women who were abused during overseas
employment, was opened south of Colombo. Local District Secretaries
provide health and judicial services to child victims in their
districts, and the NCPA provides psychological services to child
victims. In addition, some NGOs run shelters and rehabilitation
C -- The government does not provide funding or material support to
foreign or domestic NGOs for services to victims. The government
provides a three USD/per month food supplement to child victims
registered with the NGOs.
D -- The government's law enforcement and social services personnel
do not have a formal system in place to identify potential
trafficking victims. NGOs occasionally receive reports of victims
and offer assistance, and the government is cooperative in these
E -- Not applicable.
F -- Women arrested on suspicion of being trafficked into Sri Lanka
for the purpose of prostitution are sometimes released upon paying a
fine. They are usually deported for immigration violations (working
while on a tourist visa).
G -- The government encourages victims to assist in the
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investigation and prosecution of trafficking by providing
information to arrest the traffickers. Sri Lankan victims can file
Fundamental Rights cases and seek financial restitution. There are
no restrictions on obtaining other employment or leaving the country
if a victim is a witness in a case against a former employer. There
is no victim restitution program.
H -- The government did not provide victim or witness protection to
victims of trafficking. A Victim and Witness Protection Bill is in
preparation. The government reportedly plans to bring it to a vote
in Parliament in March 2008. In February 2008, the Ministry of
Child Development and Women's Empowerment set up a hotline for
complaints about child labor, parental neglect, corporal punishment
and sexual abuse. Child victims are transferred to institutions
such as the Salvation Army under the escort of the Ministry of
Social Services' Department of Probation and Child Care Services.
I -- The government does not provide any specialized training as
such for its officials in identifying victims of trafficking or
provision of assistance to trafficking victims. The Ministry of
Foreign Employment has assigned labor attaches to some embassies and
consulates abroad to provide assistance to migrant workers and
trafficking victims. However, limited resources and heavy caseloads
sometimes result in minimal assistance being provided. The GSL
maintains migrant worker safe houses at several embassies and
provides transportation home for victims of labor exploitation.
According to the Foreign Employment Bureau, 3500 migrant workers
made use of these safe houses during the reporting period. In
February 2008, the GSL arranged for 96 Sri Lankan house maids in a
detention camp in Riyadh to return home, providing airfare for 17 of
them. Also in February 2008, the GSL arranged for the return home of
165 migrant workers from an embassy safe house in Kuwait.
J -- For Sri Lankans who are victims of trafficking, either through
sexual or labor exploitation, the government will provide some
compensation to those who registered with the Sri Lankan Foreign
Employment Bureau prior to departing. The Foreign Employment Bureau
continued a program, established in 2006, requiring private foreign
employment agencies to submit deposits of bonds to register their
companies. The deposits may be used to assist any migrant worker
stranded overseas due to trafficking or other migration emergency
circumstances. The agency will lose its deposit if it is proven
responsible for a trafficking incident.
K -- Save the Children Foundation, ESCAPE, Don Bosco, Salvation
Army, ILO, IOM, American Solidarity Center, Women in Media
Collective, Women in Need, PEACE, Caritas, and a number of
community-based organizations work with trafficking victims. The
government works closely with these organizations to develop a
relationship with local authorities, but it is the NGO that makes
the initial effort. The GSL does not have the resources to provide
funding to these groups for trafficking victim assistance programs.
Paragraph 30: Prevention
5. (SBU) A -- The government in Sri Lanka acknowledges that
trafficking is a problem in the country. While the government
maintains its commitment to address trafficking in persons issues,
resource constraints, a lack of coordination among concerned
ministries, and inadequacies of the judicial system make tackling
TIP a challenge for the GSL. Nonetheless, the government has made
efforts to address the issue. In 2006, the government signed
Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) with Jordan, Malaysia, and South
Korea on cooperation to reduce the incidence of trafficking of Sri
Lankan nationals to those countries. MOUs were signed with United
Arab Emirates and Qatar in 2007 and are under negotiation with
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Libya, Italy, Kuwait and Egypt. In August 2007, the Bureau of
Foreign Employment (BFE) began requiring all foreign employment
contracts to be signed by the BFE, the worker, and the recruitment
agent in the presence of a BFE officer. This procedure allows the
BFE officer to ensure that the worker understands the terms of the
contract and permits closer scrutiny of agents and subagents.
B -- The Child Protection Unit of the Attorney General's
Department conducted awareness programs among law enforcement
authorities, schools and other civil society organizations. The
NCPA, as part of its overall efforts to address child welfare,
includes child trafficking as part of its educational campaigns. In
2007, the NCPA, Tourist Board, and Attorney General's department
conducted 26 awareness campaigns on child sexual exploitation among
teachers and students, hotel staff, taxi and three-wheeler drivers
and casual tourism workers such as "beach boys."
C -- The officials of international NGOs, indigenous community-based
organizations working to combat trafficking, and officials of
government agencies involved in anti-trafficking efforts maintain a
positive working relationship.
D -- The Government does not currently monitor immigration and
emigration patterns for evidence of trafficking. IOM is working
with the Department of Immigration and Emigration in a U.S.-funded
program to institute a computerized database that will permit the
government to monitor migration trends and identify potential
victims of trafficking. The government has welcomed IOM's
assistance and is making efforts to institutionalize the new system.
The Sri Lankan government makes every effort to adequately monitor
its borders, but remains unable to monitor activities in areas
controlled by the LTTE in the north and east.
E -- The government, with the help of IOM, established a TIP Working
Group in late 2007. The Secretary of Child Development and Women's
Empowerment chairs the group, which includes representatives from
the Sri Lanka Police, Attorney General's Office, Foreign Employment
Bureau and NCPA, as well as several NGOs involved in combating TIP.
The government has a Commission to Investigate Allegations of
Bribery or Corruption.
F -- The government of Sri Lanka does not have a national
plan of action to address trafficking in persons. The GSL, with
support from IOM, hosted a TIP meeting in December 2007 which
brought together GSL officials from throughout the government, as
well as representatives from interested NGOs, to discuss formulating
a national policy on TIP. In October 2006, the Tourist Board of
Sri Lanka partnered with UNICEF to launch a National Action Plan
Project to eradicate child sex tourism, including trafficking of
children for exploitation, in Sri Lanka. The Ministry of Tourism,
UNICEF, Hoteliers' Association, Airlines, the Police, Department of
Immigration and Emigration, and authorities of sea and air ports
participated in drawing up this National Action Plan.
G -- The GSL has not taken any specific actions to reduce demand for
commercial sex acts.
H -- Not applicable.
I -- The government has not adopted any specific measures to ensure
that its nationals who are deployed abroad as part of peacekeeping
missions do not engage in or facilitate trafficking. Following the
repatriation of 108 Sri Lankan peacekeepers from Haiti on charges of
sexual misconduct, the NCPA has sought assurances from the Sri
Lankan Army that it will provide awareness training to future