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Cablegate: Tip Interim Assessment for Sri Lanka

R 171030Z NOV 08



E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: STATE 109260

1. Post assesses that the Government of Sri Lanka (GSL) has taken
many positive steps to address Sri Lanka's trafficking problem.
These efforts have mainly focused on the foreign employment of Sri
Lankans, building awareness of trafficking, and increasing
interagency coordination to counter trafficking. Nevertheless, the
GSL does face a host of problems which constrain its ability to
fully address all of its deficiencies in the area of trafficking.
Specifically, Sri Lanka has an extremely inefficient legal system
and faces both serious resource constraints and a lack of awareness
among government officials and the public of the dangers of

Criminal Investigations and Prosecutions
2. There have been no convictions by the GSL under its 2006
Amendment to its penal code, which defined trafficking as a crime
for the first time. However, the lack of convictions should not be
viewed as a lack of commitment on the part of the GSL to combat
trafficking. Instead, it's reflection of an antiquated and extremely
inefficient legal system. On average, a case takes approximately
two years between an arrest and indictment. A conviction can take
two or three times as long to achieve. In addition, there is a
serious lack of awareness among law enforcement personnel and the
judiciary of the trafficking problem. As a result, police are not
adequately trained in how to investigate trafficking crimes nor are
they trained in proper evidence collection. This applies, however,
to all crimes, not just trafficking offences. Overall, the
conviction rate in Sri Lanka is only 4%. An example of the slowness
of the Sri Lankan justice system is the case of H. Amaradasa. He
was a music teacher in Galle and was arrested in 1996 for child
abuse. He used his position as a teacher to transport 8-10 boys to
another city in the south for sexual exploitation by foreigners. He
was convicted, but not until 2001. He was sentenced to 104 years in

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3. National Child Protective Authority (NCPA): There have been 13
arrests in 2008 for underage recruitment of girls to work as
domestics in the Middle East according to the NCPA. In addition,
there are three other cases pending in the courts which are being
prosecuted in conjunction with the NCPA, which is tasked with
handling all offenses related to the mistreatment of children,
including non-trafficking cases. The first case dates back to 2002
and is expected to result in a conviction by the end of 2008.

4. Foreign Employment Bureau (FEB): There have been 22 cases so far
this year prosecuted by the FEB against businesses operating without
a valid license. Of these, three have been settled with fines of
25,000 rupees ($250). The other 19 cases are still pending. In
addition, the FEB has 12 police officers assigned to its
Investigations Unit, which has recently been conducting an average
of three raids a week on bogus recruitment agencies.

5. We are unable to obtain a total number of investigations launched
in 2008 from the police or a total number of trafficking cases
prosecuted in 2008 from the Attorney General's office because they
do not have computerized records to track offenses and trafficking
crimes are not disaggregated from other criminal violations.
However, there do appear to be cases which might be considered
trafficking, but as of the time of this report, the GSL has not been
able to provide Post with this data. We are therefore unable to
assess whether the GSL has increased the overall number of
investigations and prosecutions from 2007 to 2008. The IOM, with
assistance of British High Commission, has created a database for
use by the GSL, which should address this situation in the coming

Identification and Protection of Trafficking Victims
6. The GSL has made concerted efforts at building awareness of the
trafficking problem among government officials and the general
public. While the initial impetus for these efforts was the G/TIP
and USAID grants to the International Organization for Migration
(IOM), since that time the GSL has continued to build on this work.
Most recently the Sri Lankan Police added a trafficking training
module (drafted with IOM support) to be taught to all police
recruits during their basic training at the national police college
and to the police's other two higher level training institutes. In
addition, the FEB has sought to supplement its meager 12 man
enforcement/investigation unit by convening a nationwide meeting of
police in Colombo. Approximately 500 police attended this session,
one mid-level officer rom each police station in the country. The
aimwas to build awareness of trafficking and to leverge the
resources of local law enforcement to enhnce the ability of the FEB
to identify and take action against traffickers. This will be
followed up by several regional meetings held throughout the country
starting in December 2008. For the general public, the GSL launched
a public awareness campaign in October 2008 which sought to inform
the public of the dangers of using illegal recruitment agencies.

Financial or in-kind Assistance for Trafficking Victims
7. Assistance to trafficking victims has two sources within the GSL:
the FEB and the NCPA. The FEB collects fees from registered workers
who are going abroad. These fees are used to run shelters abroad,
as well as domestically at Bandaranaike International Airport; to
provide training to workers before they depart; and to provide other
assistance to overseas Sri Lankan workers, such as repatriation
services, even for those who worked abroad without registering with
the FEB. The NCPA runs five schools certified to rehabilitate
children trafficked for sex work. The schools offer counseling and
vocational training to victims.

Encouragement of Victim Participation in Investigations
8. According to the GSL, victims are afforded immunity if they agree
to testify against their trafficker. In addition, for children,
recorded testimony is now admissible in courts. The child would
still need to appear for cross examination, but this does help
address part of the GSL's problem with the collection of evidence.
However, according to officials in the NCPA, the real problem is how
to encourage victims to assist in investigations against traffickers
because many times the trafficking is done with the full knowledge
and consent of family members. As a result, the police have
difficulty convincing people to speak out or provide information to
arrest traffickers. If the names of the traffickers are known and
provided to police, the facilitators have usually only told the
family their first name and have not provided any contact details.
The result is that often the police simply don't have enough
information to go after the traffickers.

Providing Sri Lankan Migrant Workers Information on Their Rights and
Resources in Destination Countries
9. Providing public awareness to workers traveling abroad is an area
in which the FEB has excelled. The FEB printed booklets in November
2008 in Sinhala and Tamil advising workers headed to the Middle East
of their rights and responsibilities. In addition, all foreign
employment contracts must be signed by the FEB, the worker, and the
recruitment agent in the presence of an FEB officer. This procedure
allows the FEB officer to ensure that the worker understands the
terms of the contract and permits closer scrutiny of agents and
subagents. The FEB also requires training prior to departing for
foreign employment.

Other Developments
10. National Policy on Migration: A National Policy on Migration was
presented to the Sri Lankan President on November 8, 2008 by the
Ministry of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare. The policy
was the result of a GSL interagency process with input from the
International Organization for Migration. Its stated goal is to
develop a long-term vision for the role of labor migration in the
economy; to enhance the benefits of labor migration on the economy,
society, the migrant workers and their families and to minimize its
negative impacts; and to work towards the fulfillment and protection
of all human and labor rights of migrant workers. The national
policy aims to promote employment opportunities for Sri Lankans
through the institution of policies, laws, regulations, services and
facilities for migrant workers and their families. Special emphasis
is laid on the development of skills as an effective means of
protection for migrant workers and their families. The policy has
three sections: 1) governance of the migration process; 2)
protection and empowerment of migrant workers and their families;
and, 3) linking migration and development processes. Each of the
sections has a detailed list of the challenges and policy responses
and an action plan for addressing them. Post believes that this
policy is an important step for the GSL to take in order to
systematically address its deficiencies in the trafficking as it
relates to migrant workers.

11. Memorandums of Understanding: MOUs have been signed with
Bahrain, Jordan, Libya, Qatar, South Korea, and the United Arab
Emirates. They are focused on protecting the rights of Sri Lankan
workers abroad in these countries.


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