ASIA: The international convention for the protection of all persons from enforces disappearance enters into force 

Dear friends,

We wish to share with you the following statement from UCANEWS.

Asian Human Rights Commission

Hong Kong



A Statement from UCANEWS forwarded by the Asian Human Rights Commission

Posted By pramual On December 21, 2010 @ 3:29 pm In Analysis & Opinion, Countries, Daily Service, Sri Lanka


Hundreds of Sri Lankan migrant workers in the Middle East experience problems ranging from non-payment of wages, work without rest to food deprivation and forced confinement not to mention physical, psychological and sexual abuse.


Seventeen-year-old Rizana Nafeek was sentenced to death recently after being found guilty of killing the four-month-old baby of her Saudi employer.


And local doctors removed 13 nails and five needles from another house maid, Lahanda Purage Ariyawathie, a mother of three who accused her Saudi employers of the abuse.


Currently 1.3 million Sri Lankan migrants work overseas, mainly in the Middle East, and bring home over US$3 billion a year.


Each year over 2,000 cases of abuse occur with several hundred workers returning in coffins.


Caritas Sri Lanka national director, Father George Sigamoney, spoke to to mark International Migrant Workers’ Day on Dec. 18. How does the Catholic Church deal with migrant worker issues and what moved Caritas to intervene?


Father Sigamoney: When Caritas Sri Lanka started to address domestic workers’ issues the objective was to provide the basic knowledge migrants require prior to flying overseas for employment.


The program included pre-departure training to help people face job-related issues. We introduced this program in each of Sri Lanka’s 11 dioceses.


We gradually began to address domestic violence issues affecting migrant workers.

What were the challenges Caritas had to face?


At the beginning there was little acceptance of the Church’s voice. Many people did not want to highlight these issues. They wanted to show that it was just like a paradise. But we brought the plight of the migrant workers to light.


Internationally, we found that even in Caritas circles the emphasis was on European issues. Migrant issues in the Asian context, especially for those who were migrating to the Middle East, were not addressed.


Caritas Sri Lanka emphasized that these were the most vulnerable class of people.


Today Caritas International also considers this to be one of their key focus areas.


Do you have some understanding or agreement with the government on policy matters in this connection?


Yes, we now work very closely with the foreign employment bureau. We have established a very good rapport with them.


We have also prepared guide books for migrants with pre-departure advice and ‘dos and don’ts’. The other important thing is that migrant should gain a fair knowledge of Arabic because that is crucial.


People are used to taking things for granted. We want to enlighten them on how they should equip themselves.


When you hear of an incident of abuse what is your course of action?


The first step is to ensure that the person is taken out of danger with the help of the program coordinators we have in Middle East countries.


Then we will give financial assistance if necessary to bring the victim back to this country.


We have a very effective network with our Caritas partners, especially in countries like Jordan and Lebanon.


Can you mention a few instances where your intervention has brought in positive results?


In some instances we were able to get a lot of compensation. Working closely with the foreign employment bureau and by pressurizing the Sri Lankan agents we were able to bring people back.


There were cases where we directed the victims to Caritas safe houses. They get the necessary protection there and we ask the Caritas partners to attend to them.


Is there any kind of assistance for the families of these victimized migrant workers?


We mainly give attention to the children. In situations like these, there is the possibility that they become vulnerable to different social vices.


We support them with counseling and where necessary they are shifted into safer places such as convents. Even after the return of the victim we continue to follow up.


What is your message to the people?


Caritas is very well recognized. It has given a good witness to the world by working for the well being of all and not just for Catholics.


What Caritas does is very unbiased and transparent and our service is of equal benefit to all the citizens of this nation.


Related reports

Sri Lankans appeal to Saudi king for mercy [1]

Church seeks royal pardon for housemaid




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[1] Sri Lankans appeal to Saudi king for mercy:


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Document Type : Forwarded Statement
Document ID : AHRC-FST-103-2010
Countries : Thailand,
Campaigns : Somchai Neelaphaijit
Issues : Democracy, Extrajudicial killings,