The United States has urged the Sri Lankan government to investigate and prosecute government officials suspected of complicity in human trafficking.
The 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report released by US Secretary of State John Kerry last week, said that Sri Lanka needs to improve efforts to investigate and prosecute suspected trafficking offenses.
It said that the Sri Lankan government made limited progress in its efforts to prevent trafficking last year.
It also urged the government to ensure that victims of trafficking found within Sri Lanka are not detained or otherwise penalized for unlawful acts committed as a direct result of being trafficked, such as visa violations or prostitution.
The report states that Sri Lanka is primarily a source and, to a much lesser extent, a destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.
Some of 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.
Some recruitment agencies and agents also commit fraud by engaging in contract switching; they promise one type of job and conditions but then change the job, employer, conditions, or salary after arrival. In the reporting period, due to recent government restrictions on the emigration of Sri Lankan women, fraudulent recruitment agents have increased their recruitment of Sri Lankan men to travel abroad.
In 2012, Sri Lankan victims of forced labour were identified in Israel. Some Sri Lankan women are subjected to forced prostitution in Jordan, Singapore, Maldives, and other countries.
Within the country, women and children are subjected to sex trafficking in brothels. Boys are more likely than girls to be forced into prostitution in coastal areas for domestic child sex tourism.
The report said that children, individuals with physical deformities, and those from socially vulnerable groups are forced to beg or engage in criminal activity in the cities of Colombo and Kandy. In addition, there have been reports of children being subjected to bonded labour and forced labour in dry-zone farming areas on plantations, and in the fireworks and fish-drying industries.
Internally-displaced persons, war widows, and unregistered female migrants remained particularly vulnerable to human trafficking. A small number of women from Thailand, China, and countries in South Asia, Europe, and the former Soviet Union have been subjected to forced prostitution in Sri Lanka in recent years.