The coordinated blasts on Easter Sunday in Sri Lanka claimed more than 250 lives and left at least another 400 injured. While Sri Lanka battled a civil war for nearly three decades, this is a new brand of terrorism which transcends geographical borders. In this, migration in and out of countries play a critical role. Here, Bilesha Weeraratne sheds light on some of the policy developments that will need urgent attention in response to extremist terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka from a migration point of view and institutional changes in border control in Sri Lanka.
In 2017, foreign exchange earnings from worker remittances to Sri Lanka stood at USD 7.2 billion, well ahead of other major foreign exchange earners, while they also covered 96% of the trade deficit. Despite a few fluctuations, worker remittances to Sri Lanka have been growing over the years. At the same time, many developments in ICT and FinTech have emerged to facilitate remittance transaction. Nevertheless, whilst simplifying and making remitting more efficient, these developments have made remittances even more complicated.
The Sri Lankan economy is transitioning from a mere labour sending economy into one that both sends and receives workers. The same employment opportunities, working conditions, and demand and supply conditions that necessitated outmigration of Sri Lankans workers is now attracting foreign workers in to Sri Lanka. In this new reality, Sri Lanka needs an updated Act to govern immigration in to the country, as well as a matching institutional framework to ensure efficient and foolproof operation of related activities. In formulating such an institutional framework, it is important to note that migration transition is a long, complicated, and dynamic phase.
Sub Agents play a significant role in the recruitment process of migrant workers from Sri Lanka. However, to-date Sub Agents are informal stakeholders in the recruitment process. As such, currently, there is increasing interest in Sri Lanka to formalise Sub Agents and hold them accountable for their conduct. In this blog, Bilesha Weeraratne weighs in on how Sub Agents can be regulated to better serve potential migrants and licensed agents.
With the recent signing of the Sri Lanka – Singapore Free Trade Agreement (SLSFTA), as well as the Economic and Technological Cooperation Agreement (ETCA) with India that is being negotiated, there has been wide public debate on the issue of allowing free movement of people across borders. Bilesha Weeraratne argues that the ability to retain skilled foreign workers, and continue to attract high-skilled migrant workers is contingent upon the development of policies that will cater to the needs of inbound migrant workers while leveraging the potential they hold to foster economic growth and development in the country.