Minister of Foreign Employment Promotion & Welfare Dilan Perera has said Sri Lanka which recently assumed the Chairmanship of the Colombo Process - the Regional Consultative Process on migration, will do its utmost to share its experience and bring together the eleven countries and nine observer countries of this group to address common interests, including the mismatches between supply and demand and applying ethical concepts to foreign employment management.
He said Sri Lanka will also play its full part in developing the post 2015 Millennium goal development architecture, emphasizing on Migration and Development.
The Minister made these observations when he addressed the 103rd Session of the Council of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) on Tuesday ( 26th November) in Geneva.
He said the IOM has been a pillar of strength supporting Sri Lanka's efforts to give migrant workers employment with dignity.
Noting that the bulk of migrant workers fall under the unskilled categories, the Minister said through committed efforts over the years, this has been reduced to 40% today from 52% in 2010. Efforts are underway to reduce this number to 25%. The successful attainment of this goal is being underpinned by enhancing the skills of the female migrant workers and not by placing barriers on them.
Action has been taken to make all migrant workers obtain at least a NVQ3 (National Vocational Qualification 3) certificate, which is internationally recognized and portable. By this means, migrant workers, specially females, will be re-skilled to obtain higher level employment such as housekeeping assistants, caregivers, nurse aids, etc., thereby considerably strengthening their position in the power relationship with the employer.
Minister Perera added that Sri Lanka adopted a holistic approach towards migrant workers, and considered them primarily as human beings and secondarily as income generators. Programmes have been devised to educate labour agents in managerial programmes.
Sri Lanka has formed the Rataviruwo Organization, Rataviruwo meaning 'migrant economic heroes and their families'. Considerable attention has been given to the re-entry of migrant workers to the country and to provide them with a welcoming and accommodative return. A special institution has been created manned by graduates, in all divisions of the country, to attend to their re-entry needs such as providing training in building entrepreneurship skills, attending to trauma and psycho - social problems caused by migration, mentoring families in the absence of the migrant worker, and providing housing support programs for migrant families.
In order to honour these heroes and heroines of Sri Lanka's development efforts, Sri Lanka has built a raft of welfare measures, like scholarships for migrant workers children etc.
At a separate event hosted by Sri Lanka's Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva Ravinatha Aryasinha, and attended by the Director General of IOM and senior staff and the Permanent Representatives and experts of the Colombo Process countries - Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam, Minister Perera presented a Concept Paper outlining the agenda Sri Lanka proposed to embark on during its stewardship of the Colombo Process over the next two years.
He requested the member states to build on it through deliberations in Geneva, so that a road map could be evolved early on the priorities to be addressed. The Minister emphasized the importance of commencing a constructive dialogue with the Abu Dhabi Dialogue of receiving countries and on ensuring protection of labour migrants, particularly women.
Responding the Director General of IOM Ambassador William Lacy Swing said by assuming the chairmanship of Colombo Process, Sri Lanka has injected new energy into the Colombo Process.
Ambassador Swing noted Sri Lanka assumed the Chair after 10 years of its inception and also noted that even though the process is State driven, IOM as the provider of Secretarial Support is willing to extend its support to the Chair whenever it is necessary both in Geneva and Colombo. Ambassador Swing also appreciated Sri Lanka's efforts to upgrade the skills of the migrant female workers and encouraged evolving further mechanisms to do so.