2. Module V Summary of Sessions

Special Program: Sri Lanka Capacity Building for Advocacy for Migrant Workers and Safe Migration
Program Dates: July 2014 – November 2015 (5 modules)
Summary Report of Module 5
1. Executive Summary:
The first module of a special capacity building program for Sri Lankan CSOs and their
representatives working to protect the rights of Sri Lanka’s Migrant Workers’ took place in July
The key underlying assumption for this capacity building program for advocates is that
considerable improvements can be made in the lives of Sri Lanka’s migrant workers if civil society
and government can work together more effectively to promote the implementation of agreed
international human rights and labour standards to government policy and practice.
The program involved participants identifying the key problems affecting migrant workers,
developing knowledge and understanding of the existing legal, policy and institutional frameworks
governing labour migration from Sri Lanka, developing understanding of relevant international
labour and human rights standards and mechanisms and how they might be used by advocates, and
developing understanding of the situation in countries of destination. Participants identified their
own priorities for change, and their own strategies for achieving this change – including
engagement with the new Minister of Foreign Employment, and the Sri Lankan Bureau for Foreign
Employment (SLBFE). Participants also developed their knowledge of some of the most relevant
and important regional intergovernmental processes that have relevance for policy and practice on
labour migration – and particularly, the Colombo Process and the Global Forum on Migration and
Development (GFMD).
The biggest change to have taken place over the course of this 18 month long program is a change
of government that has resulted in a greater openness to dialogue with civil society on human
rights – including the rights of migrant workers.
There have been extensive reports of Modules 1 – 4. This report therefore focuses on the fifth and
final module for this program, which took place in November 2015. This module included content
on the GFMD, the Abu Dhabi Dialogue (ADD) and the Colombo Process, as well as time to reflect on
the impacts and outcomes of the program for the work of participants. This final module was
notable for the extent to which participants felt that a firm basis had been established to work
together in the future.
2. Module V Summary of Sessions:
Morning - Introductions:
There were introductory remarks from Katrin (Helvetas), Patrick (DTP) and Tatcee (MFA). They
welcomed everyone back together again and initiated a discussion of the objectives and outline for
the final three days of this 18 month program.
Sharing of experiences in Sri Lanka over the previous six months:
There was agreement that the change of government had seen a greater focus being given to labour
migration and policy and practice on the welfare of migrant workers. There is new openness from
elected representatives and government officials to engaging civil society. At the same time it was
taking time for new approaches, including openness to civil society, to flow down through the
SLBFE, particularly outside Colombo – although in some offices (including Galle) there is more
collaboration between officials and civil society. The issue of corruption by some officials as a
factor in abuses and vulnerability to abuse has also been addressed to some extent.
Implementation of policy is still a concern – and civil society needs to play a role in this – through
engagement with government and through programs/activities.
The media is more aware of the issues facing migrant workers – and is giving more focus and
attention to the issues they face in Sri Lanka and countries of destination than previously.
Participants expressed the view that the preceding four modules of the program had been useful in
various ways, and the knowledge was being applied – including in training program for women
migrant workers. The modules had also opened up new opportunities to work together. Following
approaches from civil society it was likely that the government would begin a program on legal aid
and legal assistance to migrant workers from Sri Lanka.
Feedback on GFMD from the Sri Lanka CSO Delegation to GFMD in Turkey:
In November 2015, a number of Sri Lankan CSO representatives attended and participated in the
GFMD in Turkey. Three of them were asked to provide their reflections to the group and this
session provided a valuable opportunity for them to provide their feedback to a wider group of civil
Background on GFMD
This session was facilitated and led by Tatcee from MFA which plays a key role in global
coordination of civil society engagement with GFMD. Tatcee began by providing the participants
with a broad background. The GFMD is an intergovernmental process that is a non-binding process
and outside of the UN system. Its establishment followed the final report of the Global Commission
on International Migration1 (GCIM) in 2004. One outcome of GCIM was recognition of the need to
regularly bring together governments and others to look at global migration policy and practice –
with specific reference to the relationship between migration and economic development –
recognizing the flows of remittances and the movement of people. This recognizes the limited
global governance regimes for the growing phenomenon of international migration.
The GFMD is organized annually – and hosted by a different government each year. In November
2015, it was hosted by the Turkish government. In 2016, it will be hosted by the government of
From the beginning there was concern that the GFMD process and agenda effectively excluded
reference to the rights of migrant workers (the normative framework of international labour and
human rights standards) and the voices of migrant workers and civil society. The human side of
migration was missing.
Migrant workers, their CSOs and NGOs and Trade Unions have advocated vigorously since then to
ensure their voices are heard – and that human rights, and the rights of migrant workers, frame the
agenda – rather than just the economic costs and benefits of migrant labour.
As a result, the GFMD process now begins with two days of civil society meetings, then a day when
representatives of civil society and government meet and then the intergovernmental meeting - the
government days. CSOs and Trade Unions have also taken the initiative to organize the peoples’
global assembly (PGA) – which brings together civil society from across the world in a process
parallel to the GFMD. In 2014, CSOs at the PGA adopted a 5-year 8 point plan to guide civil society
work over the next 5 years.
The GFMD agenda is organized in a way that addresses some of the key issues connected with
labour migration – with some sessions on different topics being run at the same time. This means
making choices about which workshops to participate in.
I participated in the sessions on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and on labour
Development was discussed only on the macro level leaving behind how
development can take forward individual development for migrant workers (village,
Migration is now in the SDGs – the challenges now come in relation to the indicators
and the monitoring of the achievement of the indicators – the implementation
There is an understanding that lack of work options in the origin country pushes
migration from the origin country.
Irregularity in labour recruitment was a key topic, and there was also a focus on the
refugee issue; the categorization of refugee vs migrants has a disconnect.
The issues of Xenophobia/Diaspora were on the agenda too – but without clarity of
There are logistical issues that need to be addressed to enable effective civil society participation –
especially in relation to the possibility to participate in the government days.
The formal agenda should include discussions on the bilateral agreements on migration
between the destination and origin countries. These are important in affecting how migrant
workers are treated, in establishing minimum standards/conditions consistent with
international standards. They help to establish the governance regime.
The dialogue should be based on existing recognized rights of migrants – not on politically
based issues. There should also be a focus on the legal changes necessary to protect the rights
of migrant workers. CSOs need to continue in dialoguing with governments about this.
Only a small number of observers from the CSOs are allowed into the government days and this
is one of things that limits there being effective dialogue.
Looking forward to GFMD in Bangladesh in 2016, there needs to be better processes and it
should be easier for Asian civil society to engage in our own region.
It was useful to hear the other countries are experiencing similar things to Sri Lanka.
The agenda did not give enough space to the situation of women – and particularly women
domestic workers – who can experience a hostile work environment.
The gender dimensions of migration – including what happens to families of migrant workers
left behind in countries of origin, and discriminatory laws that prevent women (and young
women in particular) from leaving for work.
These were not taken up in the 2015 GFMD, these could be suggestions that can be taken up
next year in Bangladesh, GFMD 2016.
Discussion focused on the nature of CSO participation, how to effectively engage in the process and
how to get outcomes from participation in the GFMD.
It was emphasized that there are no established or clear guidelines on participation of CSOs. CSOs
are largely excluded from official discussions during the government days. Government delegations
to the GFMD may comprise of representatives from different government ministries’ /
departments. Potentially official delegations may be able to include CSO representatives, as
happens in some international dialogues but it is not known whether it has happened in the GFMD
process. There is an international CSO steering committee that invites CSO participation and makes
selections for the civil society days. This steering committee engages with the secretariat of the
GFMD in Geneva.
National CSO delegations can also engage with their national delegations. Ideally this engagement
should begin in the preparatory phase, with CSOs meeting with their government, identifying issues
of concern, sharing priorities and possibilities for common action – and identifying the GFMD
delegates from their country. At the GFMD itself this process can continue – with invitations to or
from the government delegation for dinner/coffee/breakfast etc. For the 2015 GFMD there was
participation from the ministry of education, ministry of labour, of justice, and of health.
It is also good practice for national (or thematic focused) delegations to meet daily – or at the
beginning and end of each day – to plan and report, swap notes on the different sessions and to talk
about what things to raise in the discussions, and what steps need to be taken in relation to the
government, and what issues to push that are benefical for migrant workers.
It was agreed that CSOs needed to engage governments more – and to press for more space for
CSOs in the GFMD process. It is also important for national level NGOs to link in with international
networks – and the lobbying and advocacy agenda established at the international level. The
international networks can help national level delegations to prepare and to engage in a
coordinated way. It is also important for the CSOs attending such events to share reports back with
There was discussion about what governments get from participating in the GFMD – what are the
motives and outcomes for governments. Some governments use the GFMD to engage in bilateral
negotiations for labour exchange. Since this is a non-binding forum, there are different reasons that
governments engage in the conference (e.g. discussions of recruitment reform, etc).
SUGGESTION: The group suggested that it would be useful to draft a statement and report on GFMD
that can be circulated in the network of CSOs in Sri Lanka. It is also important to have debriefing and
follow-up work on this.
The GFMD – Report on the Outcomes of Roundtable 1: What are the recommendations that are
applicable to Sri Lanka and how do we to address these recommendations to the government?
Participants were broken into groups to review the outcomes/recommendations from the GFMD
that were relevant to Sri Lanka.
Protection of human rights
o Bilateral agreements must be tightened,
o Should include condition that detention periods has to be served in labour sending
sending countries
To develop pre departure awareness training
o Practical skills should be included in pre-departure training to the migrant
workers (these practical skills should include content on relevant laws, knowledge
of human rights, etc)
To ensure that national laws comply with international standards
o Both countries of origin and destination need to ratify international conventions
To increase increase decent work in countries of origin so the so called ‘economic
migration’ is a free choice not necessary
o Increase salary of the workers in the country
Reducing the cost remittances
o Seek agreement with state banks on low charges/fees for inward remittances by
Fair ethical recruitment process
o Make recommendations to have a uniform cost of recruitment for males and
females – that does not involve the charging of fees to migrants
o To regulate the promotion of sub agents
o To have bilateral agreements with destination countries to regulate the job
The GFMD – Follow-Up, Planning and How to Engage in Future
So far there has been no report from the government re the outcomes of their participation in the
GFMD and no post GFMD briefing of NGOs
Organize a meeting with the Minister and talk about the GFMD – both the process and
planning for Sri Lankan participation in GFMD 2016
Continues follow-ups and networking among CSOs in Sri Lanka to build understanding of
GFMD and enable wider engagement
Build the capacities of CSOs to understand and be more efficient in engagement and with
regular meetings both formal and informal
Create a formal group focussed on the GFMD and the group will meet every month to talk
about the processes that it will take on the work to be done and work with our government
at the national level.
RECAPS From the Exchange visits to Jordan and Lebanon –Identification of needs for advocacy
follow-up re SLBFE,MEA/MFE----Experiences, insights, learning and Action points and followups.
Over the previous six months a number of participants had been involved in exposure visits/field
trips to Jordan and Lebanon. – and others had held meetings with the government. This session
provided an opportunity to share reflections and feedback.
CSOs there are working independently. No restrictions that are being placed on the
organizations working on the rights of the migrant workers
There are many domestic workers from Philippines, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Sudan, etc
Met with the Sri Lankan Ambassador who said many are irregular migrants and don’t want
to go home because they know that there is a worse experience in terms of work in Sri
Visited a church that shelters Sri Lankan migrants to engage with them and understand the
There are issues like harassment (physical, sexual), unpaid salaries and other issues (no
rest hours, no MOUs, etc)
Contract substitution occurs in Lebanon to some Sri Lankan migrant workers
o Signs a different contract in origin country (Sri Lanka) and in Destination (Lebanon)
o In Lebanon, contracts are signed in the court
There are a lot of children of migrant workers in Lebanon – and their status can be
Domestic workers are (generally) not allowed to go out from the houses where they are
Mobile phones are being withheld by employers – and this increases vulnerability and
The coordination within the CSOs between the countries of origin and destination is not
well organized
Recommendation that government must have a special manual for those who are travelling
to Lebanon
o CSOs in Lebanon are willing to help the making of the manual
No official translator
Missions cannot work properly as they only have limited resources
No legal assistance provided by the embassy
Things are similar from Lebanon and Jordan but has few differences
Migrant worker are free to do the things they want like shopping go to church, etc.
Churches and free legal organizations are working for the benefits of the migrants welfare
Tamkeen is an NGO that gives free legal services to migrant workers
The welfare centers, textile union and women union are helping the migrants
Jordanian government has Anti-human tranfficking unit that is an initiatve to control
Exchange of relevant and important information with legal orgs in Jordan to support they
work over with additional information
Additional information specific to Jordan needs to be added in the general and predeparture sessions
No lawyers are permanently connected with the embassy and as in Sri Lanka, the Sri Lanka
embassy is not seen as effective.
It was noted that the Kafala (labour sponsorship system) operated in both countries.
As in all of the modules the day began with a recap of the previous day’s discussions by a group of
the participants – which led into the first formal session of the day and the need for civil society to
focus on preparations for GFMD Dhaka in 2016 (8-12 December 2016).
GFMD- the road to Dhaka 2016
This session was led by William Gois, who sought participant’s views on the value for their CSOs to
engage in the GFMD.
It was agreed that GFMD had potential value because it focused governments on key issues,
provided a forum to raise issues, for CSOs to dialogue with government, and to build their own CSO
networks and common platforms and collective voice.
Expectations have to be kept realistic – it is a forum of governments, for governments and the
outcomes are decided by governments – and are in the form of recommendations only. It is not
realistic to think CSOs and government representatives will agree on everything, or can achieve
agreement over two days. CSOs in many countries face the first challenge of getting their
governments to engage seriously with the GFMD process. Some governments may be, or can be
persuaded to be, allies on some issues and the GFMD process provides an opportunity and
framework for engaging with government.
GFMD has value as an avenue for the advocates to link, engage and dialogue with fellow advocates
for more effective advocacy at national international levels. The PGA is also a very valuable avenue
and space for civil society – it is open to all and everyone can participate.
CSOs, the Sri Lankan Government and the GFMD
MFA is looking for input from CSOs on the GFMD in Bangladesh. Participants were divided into
groups and asked to review the draft GFMD Concept Note for Bangladesh. The following
recommendations came from the groups:
There is a strong message that goes own. On how the CSOs pushes through this and how we can
lobby this to the government by passing through the recommendations to the government.
Countries that do not have national migration policies should develop them.
National migration policies should now be aligned with the SDGs
Money, and resources of migrant workers should be utilized for their own development
Protection and safety of migrant workers should be considered in signing of the agreements
and take more priority than the financial aspects
CSOs should be encouraged to engaging in the preparatory processes for GFMD
The protection of migrant workers as they transit from origin to destination countries would be
good to include in the talks in the next GFMD.
Governance structure - Global governance of migration to broaden its scope. Mixed flows is an
issue – as witnessed in recent months in the Mediteranean.
Gender issues – the impact of labour migration on women
The Colombo Processed Explained - Building collaboration between countries of origin (Masako, IOM)
This session was led by Masako Ueda of the Colombo office of the IOM.
The Colombo Process (CP) began with the leadership of the Sri Lankan government, which
recognized the value of bringing together other countries in Asia that were major labour sending
countries. It is a collective process of labour sending countries dedicated to discussing the process
of labour migration – including common issues of concern. They only talk about the regular process
of migration.
There are five focal areas:
Humanitarian - social services
Legal Institutional Information-knowledge sharing to migrants
The Colombo Process brings together relevant government ministers from the labour sending
countries on an annual basis. These meetings are preceded by meetings of senior officials with
responsibility for migration policy and practice in their respective countries. These meetings agree
the focus and agenda (and any agreements) for the ministerial meetings.
There is some tension at the heart of the Colombo Process as the governments it brings together
are also competitors for market share of migrant labour in the countries of destination. All the
governments rely to some extent on the foreign income they receive through the remittances of
their migrant workers. There should however be possibilities to build collaboration on issues of
common concern – such as the high costs of remittances, social insurance/security, standard
contracts for domestic workers, detention/repatriation policies etc.
The Colombo Process is underwritten financially and administratively by the IOM. Meetings are
irregular and there are no established guidelines on civil society participation – and most meetings
to date have excluded all representatives of migrant workers and civil society. There is a lack of
transparency, and little evidence that the official discussions are based on the human rights
standards that the governments have accepted and ratified.
CSOs and NGOs are trying to engage with the Colombo Process – and recognize the potential of this
grouping of governments to collectively promote respect for the rights of migrant workers.
It is possible that the new government of Sri Lanka, newly open to and valuing engagement with
civil society could take the lead in opening up the Colombo Process (which it is currently Chairing)
to NGOs/CSOs.
The Abu Dhabi Dialogue Process
The Abu Dhabi Dialogue (ADD) is an expansion of the CP – bringing together CP member countries
with the major countries of destination in the Middle-East region. It was initiated by countries in
the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and is more financially independent than the CP. The ADD has
the same five focus areas. Like the CP, the ADD is closed to CSOs at this stage. The decisions taken
at the ADD affect policy and practice on migrant workers – but their voices are absent from the
Participants were then divided into groups for discussion about the projects/work that participants
were doing that may be relevant to the thematic areas of the CP/ADD – and recommendations for
Effective pre departure orientation:
- Pre departure training by SLBFE is only on soft skill and the 21 days is seen as not enough for the
training to cover the important areas it needs to:
-The subjects are a little bit stressful (HIV/AIDS etc)
- Training needs to include information on the rights of migrant workers – and on the legal system,
complaints mechanisms and access to remedies in country of destination and through Sri Lanka’s
missions and local NGOs etc
- Training should include remittance management
- The 21 days program needs to include information and guidance that is specific to the country of
destination – which it does not do at present.
- Care should be taken that rights are violated on the process of getting a health clearances from the
health centers.
Fostering ethical recruitment
- Look at MLE, SLBFE and engage with them
- There should be coordination of recruitment/placement agencies in both countries of origin and
destination – and all should be registered in ALFEA.
- SLBFE and ALFEA should coordinate to both recognize and regulate/control sub agents
- Code of Ethics should be part of training and responsibility for the workers of ALFEA and SLBFE
- Monitoring mechanism needs to be included in the process to ensure recruitment is ethical (fee
Review skills and qualification process
- enhance the quality of training
- giving awareness to rights of the migrants
- assessment of the skills on the specific job description for the departing migrants – and specific
- assessment of the skills that are acquired of by returning migrants
- inclusion of language training for the country of destination in the skills qualification
Reduce the costs of remittances transfer
- Pre departure training should include training in the management of remittance transfer specific
to the country of destination
- Guidance and advice on saving money should be included in the training
- Training in financial literacy of should be part of the pre-departure training
- Special key options from the bank for the members of the families in case the migrant worker is
unable to send money
- reintegration process by the ILO should be heightened
At the conclusion of what was a very lively and engaging session, Masako will share the
recommendations and suggestions raised in the discussion to her colleagues in the IOM. The
participants extended their thanks and appreciation.
The Colombo Process - Practical Exercise
William asked the participants to consider: What should be the role of CSOs in the Colombo process?
What are the things we need to do to move forward?
It was agreed that there was a need to look both at the substance and the process of engagement
Look at the gaps and issues of the 5 thematic areas and dialogue with governments
o MOUs and Conventions that are ratified should be looked out – are the Conventions
that have been ratified by governments reflected in the MoUs.
o Show best practices in the region
Dialogue among the CSOs in Sri Lanka on the 5 thematic areas
Coming together by the groups vis a vis the 5 thematic areas
Give the input to the Sri Lankan Government
Institutionalize that CSOs can have a consultative role in the CP
Two discussions that can be good to start for CSOs
Thematic areas
Process of engagement
The Colombo Process is one of a growing number of regional and international processes that area
addressing migration. In each there is a struggle to ensure that the voices of migrants – of civil
society are heard – it is a continuing challenge. Earlier in the year there was an international
meeting called Migrants in Countries in Crisis (MICIC) a process that was initiated by Philippines,
US and IOM that looks at the two following crises:
War/ conflict
Natural disasters
It was only after considerable lobbying that CSOs were invited – that their knowledge, expertise and
perspectives were recognized as essential to informed discussions. Where there is a sympathetic
and supportive government it is possible to secure – and even to institutionalize – civil society
The participants decided that they would take on the responsibility to engage the Sri Lankan
government in relation to the CP. It was agreed to focus on 4 thematic areas. Participants decided
which area they wanted to focus – and the groups committed to delivering a short report and
recommendations by 1st of February. HELVETAS will follow up with all the groups (Ranjan)
Review skills and qualification recognition processes (Sujeewa (lead); Dilshan; Wimala;
Munas (TBC)
Foster ethical recruitment (Ruchira; Subajini; Thushara; Dilshan (Lead); Geeshani)
Ensure effective pre-departure orientation and empowerment (Ranjan (Lead); Godwin;
Lathan; Menike; Uthayan; Sujeewa; Sr. Thushari; Chathurani; Gamagge; Sisira; Yogehwari
Reduce the cost of remittances transfer (Nadhia (Lead); Subajin; Leela; Manjala )
Subajini, Ranjan and Sujeewa will coordinate a National consultation with Sri Lankan government
on the thematic areas
Sujeewa and Ranjan to dialogue with government on why CSOs are important to engage with in the
MFA will prepare a document on the history of engagement of CSOs in Colombo process (deadline
the 28th of Nov) – a historical document of MFA’s engagement to the Colombo process and the
comparative analysis to other regional processes.
At the end of the day the facilitators sat with a group of the participants to reflect on the day and to
plan for the last day of the program.
DAY 3:
The day again began with a recap by a group of the participants.
Building collaboration and a Migrant Workers Agenda for SAARC Building Regional CS Collaboration
The day’s first session was led by Shom Luitel from Nepal – who led participants through a session
to build their understanding of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). Sri
Lanka is one of 8 members of SAARC, which was established in 1985. Many of these countries are
countries of origin for migrant workers.
SAARC’s objectives are:
to promote the welfare of the peoples of SOUTH ASIA
to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development in the region
to promote and strengthen collective self-reliance among the countries of SOUTH ASIA;
to contribute to mutual trust, understanding and appreciation of one another's
to strengthen cooperation among themselves in international forums on matters of
common interests
SAARC is a key sub-regional body in the UN’s Asia-Pacific region. Unlike most regional
intergovernmental bodies, it does not have a human rights instrument or mechanism. SAARC has
adopted convention on trafficking.
Nepal hosts the SAARC Secretariat. Shom’s presentation provided a brief background on SAARC
and reviewed recent successful efforts to put migration on SAARC’s agenda as a focus for
cooperation and action. These efforts have led to the adoption of a SAARC Plan of Action on
migration. Shom emphasized the importance of civil society in promoting adoption and
implementation of the plan of action.
At its 2014 SAARC Summit in Kathmandu, SAARC agreed to collaborate and cooperate on safe,
orderly and responsible management of labour migration from South Asia to ensure safety, security
and wellbeing of their migrant workers in the destination countries outside the region.
Nepal has proposed the following to other SAARC governments:
Set up an institutional mechanism at the regional level that would facilitate collaboration and
cooperation on management of key labour migration issues at the SAARC level.
Facilitate the development of a ‘SAARC Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the
Rights and Welfare of Migrant Workers.’
Identify priority thematic areas for regional cooperation and facilitate information exchange
and knowledge-building on labour migration issues.
The following thematic areas are being given consideration by the SAARC working group:
Development of a Framework for Skills Qualification
Strengthen Pre-departure Orientation Programmes for Workers
Establishment of a Mechanism for Information Exchange and Knowledge Building
Ensuring Fair and Ethnical Recruitment
Maximizing the Development Potential of Migration
Formulation of Standard Employment Contract and Minimum Wages
Improvement in the Justice Mechanisms, Support Services and Rapid Rescue
Shom’s presentation was comprehensive and thorough and very helpful – and he emphasized the
importance of advocates engaging with their own governments – and of developing collaboration
between CSOs and NGOs in SAARC countries.
William reminded participants that over the course of the training program, participants had learnt
about 6 intergovernmental processes that are relevant to migrant workers
Colombo process
Abu Dhabi
Asia-Europe Dialogue
There are commonalities between them:
The Sri Lankan government participates in each of these processes.
Ensuring CSO representation is a challenge in each process
Human rights – and the rights of migrant workers should be a central concern of all
The meetings, recommendations and discussions of all can have impacts on the situation of
Sri Lanka’s migrant workers
Meetings of all these processes are taking place in 2016
William posed some key challenges: What does this mean for advocates for migrant workers, how
should these processes be viewed and how can we not be overwhelmed?
- We can build capacity
- We can see this as an opportunity to raise up and integrate our advocacy
- The processes provide alot of spaces to move forward our advocacies for the rights and welfare of
Migrant workers
CSOs working on this cause should discuss this with the government in order to help the
rights of the MW
This is also a very good time to work together with the Sri Lankan government to give
suggestions on what needs to be done – based on the issues that MW are experiencing
Engage with the processes
Participants then divided into groups to map out the next steps – what they wanted to do following
the program.
Next Steps:
It was agreed that they would like to form a network out of the DTP participants (but not limited to
Initial discussion among the network
o Identify issues and work on the issues in terms of the processes
o Solve issues national and regional level
Make action plans on each of the processes and share responsibilities/
Resources mobilization
Reporting,Data Collection, and Networking
Identify allies
o Information
o Human resorces
Communication/media strategy
Awareness raising programs/campaigns
Organizers (1-3 members)---Representatives from all the provinces
Focal Points (Coordinator and convenor)---Community
Create Constitution---Wokplan----Secretariat----Central Committee----President---Regional Coordinator----Working groups
William’ advice was that they needed to come together on their own. They needed to work step by
step. Take the first part of the organizational structure and wait till it evolves.
Organizations willing to help on the spaces to meet:
Sarvodaya Women’s movement
Good Shepherd
Three of the participants agreed to take on the role as focal persons to guide and lead the next
steps: Sujeewa; Ranjan (focused on the Colombo Process); Subajini
The final session of the day involved completing written evaluation forms – and a final shared
reflection where most participants contributed. In this session, the participants were joined by the
Swiss Ambassador to Sri Lanka. The feedback and reflections were very warm and positive – with
participants in many cases explaining how much they had valued participating – and the
knowledge, skills and networks they had built over the past 18 months.
The final act of the program was the awarding of UNSW/DTP certificates to the participants.
Appendix 1: Background to the Program
Background to the Program
The need for capacity building was identified by SDC and HELVETAS Sri Lanka,
recognizing that it is crucial to strengthen and support local organizations in advocating
for migrants rights at national and international level.
The Diplomacy Training Program (DTP) and Migrant Forum Asia (MFA) have worked
together since 2004 to develop the capacity of advocates in Asia working for the rights of
migrant workers and their families.
The program is designed around 5 four-day modules, with assignments and exercises to
be completed by participants between these sessions. The program strategy envisaged a
core group of 15-20 advocates who would complete all modules, with additional
participants invited to participate in specific modules – to build wider knowledge and
Rationale for Programme
The execution in Saudi Arabia of Sri Lankan housemaid’s Rizana’s in early 2013 served
as one of the main triggers to the formal formation of a new network, the Migrant
Forum Lanka (MFL), which consists of almost 20 organizations, including trade unions,
civil society and research institutions working on the protection of migrants’ rights.
There is acknowledgement of the need to improve coordinated and strategic advocacy to
defend and promote the rights of Sri Lanka’s migrant workers.
The objectives for this project are to work with participants to:
o Develop effective strategies to advocate for better protection of migrants,
including in destination countries.
o Learn about and from migrant protection systems in other Asian labour sending
countries to support the government in implementing changes/improvements of
the existing systems and mechanisms in Sri Lanka;
o Explore how Sri Lankan advocates can more effectively influence respect for the
rights of migrants in destination countries
o Develop knowledge and skills on how to engage with and influence the private
sector involved in labour migration
o Develop alliances and networks and skills in building and sustaining networks
Participant Expectations:
At the beginning of the first module participants were asked to spend some time
discussing their expectations from participation.
Better understanding of the status of migrant workers (situation/context) in
Sri Lanka and countries of destination
Understanding the Sri Lankan labour migration policy and identifying the
gaps and loopholes in law and policy that need to be addressed to ensure
rights of migrants are protected/upheld
Identifying the services available to migrant workers and ensuring that these
are available in rural areas as well
Build knowledge about international experiences / initiatives in dealing with
migrant rights
Developing new advocacy and lobbyiing strategies/plans to address migrant
workers’ issues
To develop a strategic plan to lobby governments
Knowledge on how to gain access to resources to design and implement
sustainable initiatives
Establish a safe migration network
Key Issues for Migrant Workers
Participants then spent some time in the first module discussing and identifying key
issues for Sri Lanka’s migrant workers:
5.1 Sri Lanka:
Lack of data/documentatio
Lack of adequate information for workers regarding job placements and
unsuitable placements
Lack of sharing and coordination among stakeholders
Decentralization of services and ineffective implementation, including Predeparture preparations
Recruitment process / recruitment agents
Gaps in complaints handling mechanism
Lack of legal aid in migration
Inadequate understanding of the requirements of returnees
Breakdown of the family unit
C189 ratification
Apparent lack of Protection strategy
Trafficking within the labour migration process is inadequately addressed
5.2 Countries of destination – Middle East:
Apparent lack of Protection strategy
Contract violations- Non-Payment of Salaries
Physical and mental torture/ abuse
The Kafala system – and the lack of freedom of movement, association, assembly,
Sharia law – very harsh penalties under Sharia and the terms of punishment
needs to be completed in the host country. There are no MOUs which allow
prisoners to be brought back to the country of origin.
Language barriers,
Lack of legal redress (SLBFE say only 4% of MWs to SA complain, this is
challenged and there is also a view that workers do not wish to complain
through SLBFE)
Lack of MoUs and bilateral agreements
Deployment bans in some countries that are seen as discriminatory
Lack of respect for human rights. Monthly salaries are not being paid. Pay slips
are being signed but wages are not being paid.
This list is not seen as exhaustive, but as a useful start for having a shared
understanding for some of the key areas for future advocacy and collaboration.