‘Migrant workers’ rights should be taken seriously’ | Daily News


‘Migrant workers’ rights should be taken seriously’

The government should set up a proper structure to protect migrant workers’ rights and to effectively act on their behalf, as the migrant workers’ contribution to the economy is enormous.

About two million migrant workers contribute eight billion US dollars to the national economy annually where the work remittances account for between eight to 10 percent of Sri Lanka’s GDP. This is the sector which has consistently brought foreign remittances to the country for over a decade.

However at present, labour migration is not discussed and debated enough, worker rights are not upheld, economic and social implications are less effective and migrant workers are not given voting rights. “But countries such as India, Philippines and Indonesia have adopted automated systems to provide voting rights for the migrant workers,” said Executive Director, Community Development Services (CDS), Andrew Samuel yesterday in Colombo. Thus steps needs to be taken by the authorities to respond to these issues.

He said that a majority of semi skilled and low skilled people migrate to other countries due to economic and social challenges faced by them. A minority of highly skilled Sri Lankans migrate for labour. Among the low skilled and semi skilled migrants about 50,000 to 60,000 are housemaids working in the Gulf region.

Even though a dedicated ministry is established to act on behalf of the labour migrants, adequate measures have not been taken to solve their issues. Samuel highlighted the fact that there are around 200 to 300 deaths from the gulf region annually, a majority been suicides and many Sri Lankans face abuse and harassment in those countries. But justice is not met for in many cases. “You should respect that person who has gone overseas to earn money. We need to advocate for the rights of the migrants and be activists on their behalf,” he added.

The government should give priority to the migrants by recognizing the valuable contribution made by them to the national economy and concentrate more on the security of them. Not only the migrants but special attention needs to be given for their families too.

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