Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 22 March 2015





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

Plugging the holes

. . . on human trafficking:

To rescue the country from the world's second largest criminal enterprise – human trafficking – Sri Lankan authorities have been taking different steps over a period of time. Still Sri Lanka is kept at the Tier 2 watch list according to the US State Department Report 2014.

Sri Lankan illegal immigrants caught in Mangalore

Let alone curbing the menace, Sri Lanka finds it difficult even to collect the correct numbers of human trafficking cases as many victims go unnoticed due to ignorance, fear and embarrassment.

According to experts, legal aspects needed to prove a case as a human trafficking offence are over looked in the entire process. There are many loose points in the manner cases are filed against traffickers.

“When writing down a complaint the Police officer may not notice certain factors in the incident that can really prove the human trafficking aspect.

In the same way this human trafficking element can be overlooked at every point of the legal procedure.

And eventually, the case has not been investigated as a human trafficking case,” said Senior Assistant Secretary (legal) of the Justice Ministry, Anusha Munasinghe. In certain instances the authorities may assume it is a complaint against a fake job agent but in the victims story there can be elements proving a human trafficking offence. “Thus we find it very difficult to maintain an accurate data base of human trafficking offences,” said Munasinghe.

According to the 2014 report of the Office To Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons of the US State Department Sri Lanka is placed on Tier 2 Watch List. Whether the US has the right to categorise Sri Lanka like a global body is of a different debate.

Yet the report surfaces certain key points that Sri Lanka need to strengthen to free our souls from the world's heinous crimes. “For the third year in a row, authorities failed to convict any traffickers under Sri Lanka’s trafficking statute, and almost none of the traffickers convicted under the procurement statute served time in prison,” the report states.

Boat load of illegal immigrants caught at mid sea

And Sri Lanka has not ratified the 2000 UN Trafficking In Persons Protocol.


In an attempt to bring an answer the National Anti Human Trafficking Task Force headed by the Justice Ministry recently adopted a Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for Trafficked Persons.

“It is just basically setting out from the beginning to the end. When you find perpetrators or a victim every institution has its role and responsibility.

Any citizen when they look at the standard procedures they can understand how and where to make complains and what action has to be taken. So we do not loose crucial evidence on proving the crime,” said Munasinghe.

It focuses on an overall improvement of the present anti-trafficking legal framework and coordination system in Sri Lanka.

Accordingly these SOPs are supposed to fill the identified gaps between the theories and practices by providing consistent and detailed procedures to ensure protection and justice to the trafficked persons, both local and foreign.

“The SOPs are certainly one of the main out comes of our long-standing engagement in the fight against human trafficking through multi-agency and multi-disciplinary approach,” she added.

The SOPs are fully compliant with the international human rights standards. Out country do not deal only with Sri Lankan trafficked persons.

Number of foreigners who were trafficked in to the country as well as who were on their way to be transported to other countries are all trapped in Sri Lanka due to various reasons.

Thus making this substantially new area more complicated.


“When we find the foreign victims or the perpetrators they cannot speak our languages sometimes not even little English. And the perpetrators pretend to be their relations and friends to misguide the investigators. The best thing is to avoid all that particularly in the case of women and girls," Munasinghe said.

"When all of them are produced at the Magistrate's Court they are directed to the Women's Affairs Ministry through the police and they are taken to safe house,” she said.

Almost an year ago, on the recommendations of the National Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force, a shelter was built specially for the female trafficked victims. What if the women want to return to their villages or countries? “That is possible.

The Sri Lankan Government is not holding them, we have just provided them with shelter to give them a space to overcome the physical and mental trauma,” Munasinghe added.

In most cases many of these women do not wish to return to their villages or countries immediately after the rescue since they feel embarassed about the failed attempt and want to hide the fact.

That is where the shelter provides them a safe heaven to overcome the trauma. “Any moment they can decide to leave the shelter and return to their communities.

Through the Women's Affairs Ministry the police has to be informed and on a request to the magistrate and they will be permitted to go home," she said.

"If it is a foreign national it is the same procedure. If we think that they are in a position to send back to their country when the investigations are over they can leave. We are not keeping them by force,” Munasinghe said.

New offence

Human Trafficking is a new offence in Sri Lanka. Thus surfacing the trafficking element in the cases and pulling out the relevant evidence is complicated.

“Officers of the Attorney General Department, Police, Foreign Employment Bureau all know that these people are victims of human trafficking. But with the recentness of the crime, evidence slips away making it difficult to establish the offence,” she added. According to her certain people are totally unaware that they are heading towards human trafficking.

The Rizana Nafeek case - the girl who was beheaded in Saudi Arabia in 2013 – is an example of human trafficking though it was done with real documents. Thus human trafficking is not done only through cargo containers or dingy boats.

The Task Force do continue with the training of relevant authorities, specially the Police.

The problem crops up when the trained police officers get transferred and new officers come in and then training needs to be started all over again.

She said that there is a need for Police officers from constable level to be specialised in this field.

“We need to sensitise the public more,” she added.


LANKAPUVATH - National News Agency of Sri Lank
Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL)
Donate Now |

| News | Editorial | Finance | Features | Political | Security | Sports | Spectrum | Montage | Impact | World | Obituaries | Junior | Youth |


Produced by Lake House Copyright © 2015 The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.

Comments and suggestions to : Web Editor