15/05/2015 – Colombo, Sri Lanka: The Sri Lanka Red Cross Society calls upon all authorities in Governments, Civil Societies, and others to address issues faced by people migrating for labour to various countries.
This plea was made by the Director General of Sri Lanka Red Cross Mr. Tissa Abeywickrama who was attending the International Migration Conference held recently in Manila, Philippines organized by the Philippines Red Cross.
Migration is playing, and will continue to play, a key role in the economic development of Sri Lanka. More than 1.7 million Sri Lankans now work abroad, and nearly 600,000 are housemaids… In Saudi Arabia, the most common destination, they call Sri Lanka “the country of housemaids.”
In recent years, the outflow of Sri Lankan workers has shown an increase trend. In the decade of 2000 – 2010 there has been an increase of over 100,000 migrating specially to the Middle East for labour. However most of these jobs are in harsh conditions and workers who migrate tends to face inhumane working conditions for a very small wage.
In the recent past there has been an increment in violence against house maids travelling to the Middle East. Fifteen to 20 percent of the 120,000 (approx) Sri Lankan women who leave each year for the Gulf return prematurely, face abuse, nonpayment of salary, or get drawn into illicit human trafficking schemes or prostitution.
Hundreds of housemaids have become pregnant, often after rapes, producing children who, until Sri Lanka’s Constitution was recently amended, were Stateless because their fathers were foreigners.
In his speech to the Conference Mr. Abeywickrama reiterated that the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society plays a key role in ensuring the safety of people migrating for labour and requested people with power to do more and to see the human side of things and to address it accordingly.
“Families become dysfunctional when women leave towards labour. Lack of a mother’s care and love is an issue that is faced by many of these families. We as an humanitarian organization should work with authorities to do more”
The conference resulted in the drafting of the “Manila Declaration on Women Household Service Workers”. The Declaration outlines a commitment by National Societies who participated to increase collaboration and use its position as an auxiliary to influence their respective governments and other stakeholders, to assist and protect women migrant workers.