June 20, Washington, DC: Although the Government of Sri Lanka is making significant efforts to eliminate human trafficking it does not fully comply with the minimum standards and failed to demonstrate evidence of increasing overall efforts to address human trafficking last year, a US report on human trafficking said.
The 2013 Trafficking in Persons Report released Wednesday by the United States Secretary of State John Kerry has placed Sri Lanka among Tier 2 Watch List countries.
Tier 2 countries are the countries whose governments do not fully comply with the minimum standards of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards.
A Tier 2 country is placed in the Watch List if the absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking is very significant or is significantly increasing while there is a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat severe forms of trafficking in persons from the previous year.
The report said Sri Lanka is primarily a source and to a much lesser extent, a destination for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking.
The US report noted that law enforcement efforts and victim protection, particularly identification, were very weak during the reporting period, but the government continued modest prevention efforts, continued inter-ministerial coordination, and developed a national action plan.
The report underscored that despite trainings and the partial implementation of victim identification procedures the Sri Lankan government officials did not have a clear view on human trafficking and they confused trafficking in persons with other crimes, such as human smuggling, illegal immigration, and prostitution. This confusion impeded law enforcement and victim protection efforts, the TIP report noted.
The US report recommended the government among other things to improve efforts to investigate and prosecute suspected trafficking offenses, respecting due process, and convict and punish trafficking offenders including government officials suspected of complicity in human trafficking.
It also suggested expanding the the Bureau of Foreign Employment’s mandate to include the regulation of subagents and train local and national government officials on the differences between trafficking and crimes such as smuggling and prostitution.
Some other recommendations included approving and fully implementing procedures to proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations and refer them to care facilities, improving services for shelters, legal aid, and counseling and improving data collection on the number of trafficking victims identified and assisted in Sri Lanka and in Sri Lankan embassies.
The TIP report also asked Sri Lanka to accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol. Sri Lanka is yet to ratify the United Nations TIP protocol of 2000, the protocol to prevent, suppress, and punish trafficking in persons, especially women and children.