When presenting his report to the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery expressed concern about the living conditions of Sri Lankan labourers, particularly in tea plantations.
The living conditions of Sri Lankan workers were one of the key issues in Sri Lanka, according to Tomoya Obokata. The UN Special Rapporteur on modern forms of slavery, who was addressing the 51st Regular Session of the Human Rights Council,
For instance, when I visited a tea plantation, I was shocked to discover that women typically had to work twice as long and for the same pay as men, since picking tea leaves pays so little, he continued.
UN special Rapporteur
The UN Special Rapporteur stated that in addition to identifying signs of forced labour in the garment industry and domestic work, among other things, he also discovered that cast-based discrimination still exists in several regions of the nation where employees face comparable challenges.
He added that many workers are also exploited by microfinance companies. As their low wages do not align with the rising cost of living in Sri Lanka, “A major issue of concern is sexual harassment and violence against female workers, which are not often reported due to fear of reprisals and a lack of trust in existing complaints mechanisms,” he said.
The UN Special Rapporteur emphasised that more must be done to safeguard Sri Lankan citizens travelling overseas for employment.
The UN Special Rapporteur said that there is room to strengthen reintegration and assistance programmes. “I noticed that Sri Lankan diplomatic commissions are not always well positioned to safeguard Sri Lankan migrant workers who have been mistreated,” he added.
Sri Lanka also addressed the issues brought up by the UN Special Rapporteur on modern-day slavery.
The Sri Lankan delegate stated, “The government of Sri Lanka is aware of the difficulties faced by Plantation sector personnel from all ethnic groupings and has taken a number of measures through the relevant line ministry to mitigate these difficulties.”
He continued by saying that the remaining concerns are not related to the nationality or ethnicity of the employees, but rather are widespread problems that the government is aware of and working to address.
The government of Sri Lanka wishes to clarify that numerous constructive efforts are taken to reduce poverty and debt among women in rural regions, in response to the special rapporteur’s mention of the fragile financial situation of rural women, said the representative.
“It must be emphasised that over the years, GSP plus benefits have led to the growth of employment opportunities and this has helped to empower grassroots to level vulnerable communities, including women, as well as to improve their living conditions,” the Sri Lankan representative said in response to the special rapporteur’s report’s concern that the benefits of the EU GSP plus are not passed down to workers.
The welfare of migrant workers is a top priority for the Sri Lankan government, he continued, and migrant employees from Sri Lanka can file grievances from anywhere in the globe through the SL bureau of foreign employment, its online branch network in SL, as well as through the e-connect app.