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
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
Boat load of illegal
immigrants caught at mid sea
And Sri Lanka has not ratified the 2000 UN Trafficking In Persons
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
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
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
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
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.
Human Trafficking is a new offence in Sri Lanka. Thus surfacing the
trafficking element in the cases and pulling out the relevant evidence
“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
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
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.