Sri Lanka: For Caritas Sri Lanka, the state has a responsibility for migrant workers

world | Feb 10, 2012 | By Asia News

Colombo – “The right to work abroad in complete safety is a fundamental right for every human being. The state has a responsibility to protect its migrant citizens, before and after their departure,” said Ramanie Jayathilaka, a lecturer at the University of Colombo, who spoke at a recent conference on “Social Welfare of Migrant Workers and their families” organised by Caritas Sri Lanka-Sedec. About 23 per cent of Sri Lanka’s labour force is working abroad. Members of local NGOs and some 50 students from the National Institute of Social Development (NISD) attended the seminar.

“As Church people, we have a responsibility to guide migrants, showing them the positive and negative aspects of migration,” said Sister Ushani Perera, head of the Women’s Desk at Caritas Sri Lanka. “Those who work abroad can earn a lot of money, but they can also lose family ties. Nevertheless, thanks to new technologies it is easier to stay in touch and survive the distance.”

During the conference, Prof Jayathilaka urged the government of Sri Lanka to take on the main responsibilities when it comes to migrant workers.

“They represent a huge source of revenues for the country,” she explained. “In 2010 alone, migrant workers contributed LKR 279.4 billion”, or US$ 2.41 billion.

Often, women are the ones who choose to work abroad, as domestic help. For Prof Jayathilaka, “the government should give these women a chance to study and then leave with degrees and qualifications so that they can aspire to better jobs than chamber maids.”

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