The International Organization for Migration (IOM), in partnership with Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Justice (MoJ), Human Rights and Legal Reforms, has launched a public information campaign funded by the US State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons in Sri Lanka.
The new campaign follows nearly two decades of IOM support for Sri Lankan government efforts to address the scourge of human trafficking.
Since 2017, IOM Sri Lanka has assisted over 90 victims of trafficking and vulnerable migrants through victim assistance grants. It also operates a hotline to assist victims, refer cases and provide information on human trafficking.
IOM Sri Lanka says the majority of cases it comes across have been subjected to labour exploitation in the Middle East, particularly in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Oman. Most victims migrate for employment as domestic workers. But there have also been instances where men have been subjected to labour exploitation in Singapore and Malaysia in the construction sector. In 2018, 12 Sri Lankan fishermen were trafficked to Somaliland where authorities, in collaboration with IOM, rescued them.
Trafficking in persons is now a punishable crime under the country’s Penal Code and Sri Lanka ratified the UN Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons – particularly of Women and Children – in 2015. The country’s National Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force comprises 18 government agencies led by the Ministry of Justice.
Speaking at the launch of the campaign, Additional Secretary of the Ministry Piyumanthi Peiris said that MoJ would continue to collaborate with stakeholders to address counter trafficking initiatives in Sri Lanka.
She also stated her belief that through awareness raising campaigns such as these, victims of human trafficking would be motivated to come forward, and society would be better equipped to report crimes of human trafficking.
Sri Lanka’s National Strategic Action Plan to Monitor and Combat Human Trafficking sees raising public awareness as key. As part of the new campaign, IOM will help the Ministry of Justice to produce TV and radio ads to alert people to sexual and labour exploitation. IOM has produced TV and Radio advertisements highlighting trafficking from rural areas to the cities for sexual exploitation and trafficking for labour exploitation across the borders.
Awareness will also be raised through street theatre, billboards and other visibility materials to reach out at the grassroots level.