New measures to combat human trafficking:
Detection unit at BIA
*State Intelligence Service help
*Human trafficking third largest
Anti-trafficking detection cells to nab possible human traffickers
and identify their victims are to be set up at the Bandaranaike
International Airport (BIA) as a part of a series of measures adopted to
combat the scourge of modern day slavery in Sri Lanka.
These cells are to be manned by highly trained immigration and law
enforcement officials. Identified victims are to be given shelter and
assistance while traffickers would be reffered to law enforcement
The officials are to identify potential victims of trafficking, both
in coming and out bound.
A comprehensive data base is being developed by the Department of
Immigration and Emigration to have as much details as possible on the
relevant subject. They recently commissioned a resource center at their
headquarters for this.
More muscle to the existing laws and the introduction of new ones are
sought by authorities. In addition, help of State Intelligence Service
units too have been sought to crackdown on identified criminal elements
working behind the scenes.
A co-ordinated approach between relevant Government arms such as the
Immigration and Emigration Department, law enforcement officials,
foreign employment and child protection authorities too has been mooted.
The latest effort comes in the backdrop of Sri Lanka being identified
by a United States based study as a source and destination country for
men and women trafficked for the purpose of involuntary servitude and
commercial sexual exploitation.
This US annual report on human trafficking which categorises
countries into three different tiers according to their identified
vulnerable levels, has included Sri Lanka in the tier two watch list.
According to sources, Sri Lanka's vulnerability when it comes to human
trafficking has being attributed mainly to reasons such as its ever
increasing labour migration force, the country's lenient Visa policies
where it provides on-arrival Visas to 79 different nationalities and its
location as a transport hub in the region. According to Immigration and
Emigration Assistant Controller Parakrama Fernando, the new unit to be
set up at the BIA would be manned by highly trained personnel.
The Unit would identify traffickers and victims. While the victims
would be given shelter and assistance, with the help of both Government
and non-Governmental organizations, the identified traffickers would be
reffered to law enforcement authorities.
According to Immigration Officer Prabath Aluthge, who mans the newly
established resource centre, human trafficking is the third largest and
fastest growing criminal industry in the world.
In the Sri Lankan scenario too, officials have identified some
underworld and criminal elements behind organized trafficking and
matters have being reffered to the CID for investigation.
According to Aluthge, the scope of human trafficking in Sri Lanka is
yet to be properly identified, and often people mis-constitute such
cases with reported cases of sexual exploitation of women gone abroad.
However men and children too are vulnerable and some find themselves
of being in involuntary servitude, when faced with restrictions of
movement, withholding of passports, threats, physical or sexual abuse
and debt bondage (mainly due to employment agents fees).
According to US Consular Officer Joel Wiegert, the common connection
of all trafficking scenarios is the use of force, fraud or coercion to
exploit a person for profit.
In Sri Lanka, most such cases could be prevented by the vigilance of
scrupulous job agents who warn their clients of the potential risks they
face in particular countries and check periodically on them, and teach
them the proper steps when faced with an abusive situation.
According to Wiegart, US President Barack Obama views the fight
against human trafficking both home and abroad as a critical policy of
the US foreign policy. The US Government currently funds 140
anti-trafficking programs in nearly 70 countries including Sri Lanka.
According to Immigration Officer Aluthge, Sri Lanka too is set to
adopt an international protocol against organized crime shortly.
In addition Sri Lanka too has taken a number of measures to combat
the scourge such as amendments to its penal code in 2006 where
trafficking offences has been categorised as a punishable offence by up
to 20 years' imprisonment.
However, so far prosecutions and convictions have been lacking and
according to sources, practical terms such as the concept of detection
cells is the way forward.