Lawyers Beyond Borders snub at Minister of labour, foreign employment for making irresponsible statement

New laws to thwart workers remitting money through illegal methods

The Foreign Employment Ministry will bring in new laws to bar workers who use illegal methods to remit money from going abroad for employment again.

Foreign Employment Minister Manusha Nanayakkara said he is looking at the possibility of bringing in new laws which give powers to the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment to reject requests by those who have worked overseas and want to go back again, if they have failed to remit money using official channels.

Sri Lankan’s going for overseas employment must register with the SLBFE before going abroad.

The Minister said in future the SLBFE will monitor remittances by workers who go for employment abroad after duly registering with the SLBFE.

The minister also said that he is working to get the necessary Cabinet approval for those engage in foreign employment to import electric vehicles with tax concessions depending on the amount of dollars sent to the country.

The minister went on to say that the tax concessions given to migrant workers for purchasing goods at the airport too will be increased, and that the concessions will also be given when constructing houses and for those want to start self-employment after returning home.

Speaking at a recent event Minister Nanayakkara said the monthly income from migrant workers has now dropped to US$ 230 million. There have been years when US$ 7-8 billion of workers’ remittances were sent to the country.

Sri Lanka’s foreign remittances have fallen 53.1 percent in the first five months of this year compared to the same period in 2021 to 1.34 billion US dollars as many expatriates are either keeping their foreign earnings with them in foreign currency or send via illegal methods such as Undiyal and Hawala due to higher rate compared to official bank rate.

Statment of Lawyers Beyond Borders – Sri Lanka (LBB- Sri Lanka)

Lawyers Beyond Borders – Sri Lanka (LBB- Sri Lanka), an organization of legal professionals which is committed to protecting and defending the rights of migrant workers categorically and unconditionally condemn the statement made by Minister of Labour and Foreign Employment, Manusha Nanayakkara, M.P. for the Galle District at an official function held at the Ministry on Tuesday, 04 July, as irrational, capricious and unfounded. According to print media and the press release of the Media Secretary, the Minister plans to introduce legislature enabling “only those who have sent significant amount(s) of dollars to the country through legal channels to return back to work abroad.”

LBB- Sri Lanka considered Minister’s statement a direct infringement of Fundamental Rights enshrined in the Article 14. (1) (g), (h), (i) of Sri Lanka’s Constitution which is the supreme law of the country. It guarantees the “freedom to engage by anyone or in association with others in any lawful occupation, profession, trade, business or enterprise; the freedom of movement and of choosing his/her residence within the country; and the freedom to return to Sri Lanka”.

Sri Lanka became a party to Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), promulgated by the United Nations, way back in 1955., Under its Article 13.1 and 13.2, UDHR addressed the right of any individual to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each State and to leave any country, including his/her own, and to return to his/her own country. Thus, the Minister’s statement becomes a direct affront to such noble precepts that Sri Lanka has upheld for over sixty years.

Referring to International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, LBB- Sri Lanka observes that through Article 8 (i) and (ii), the Convention supplements and strengthens the rights of the migrant workers and their immediate family circle as regards stay and exit of the country of origin (country of their nationality) and the destination country (where they would seek employment). Incidentally, Sri Lanka ratified the above convention on 11 March 1996. Aforesaid Articles specifies the need for migrant workers including families to return to their country of origin free of any circumscription or reproval.

LBB- Sri Lanka notes with due concern that the Minister’s presumptuous statement would compel the migrant worker to deviate from the time-honoured channels of employment professed by Bureau of Foreign Employment which would otherwise have safeguarded his/her safety and rights on a foreign soil. Instead, we postulate the resurgence of illegal migrant workers. Obligation of the Government at this critical juncture is to secure the adoption of best practices and to elevate the subsistence of migrant worker who is among the top foreign exchange earners for the desolate country.

Drawing reference to International Labour Organisation Conventions 97 and 143, LBB- Sri Lanka emphasises the compulsion of each member state to guarantee invulnerable entry, stay and exit mechanisms for the migrant worker.

In conclusion, LBB- Sri Lanka calls upon the Government of Sri Lanka to desist from enacting any arbitrary or derogatory legislation or regulation which are prima facie detrimental to the best interest of the migrant worker who forms the back-bone of our shattered economy.”

‘We draw reference to Global Compact on Migration, which Sri Lanka concurred in 2018. It seeks to “create conducive political, economic, social and environmental conditions for people to lead peaceful, productive and sustainable lives in their own country and to fulfil their personal aspirations while ensuring that desperation and deteriorating environments do not compel them to choose a livelihood elsewhere through irregular migration”. We are firm of the opinion and committed for its un-chequered, bounteous enforcement,” concluded SUJEEWA LAL DAHANAYAKE ,Attorney-at-Law,the National Coordinator.

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