Insights from the SALAM Policy Engagement Forum on Migration

21 November 2023

Inward and outward migration, remittances, and Overseas Sri Lankans present significant opportunities for Sri Lanka’s economic recovery. To identify key research gaps related to these areas, the IPS organised the South Asia Centre for Labour Mobility and Migrants (SALAM) Policy Engagement Forum on Migration, as part of IPS’ ongoing research study for SALAM on 21 November 2023. The forum brought together a diverse group of stakeholders, including the Ministry of Labour Foreign Employment, the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment, the Department of Immigration and Emigration, the Office for Overseas Sri Lankan Affairs, the Association of Licensed Foreign Employment Agencies, International Organizations such as the International Labour Organization and the International Organization for Migration, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, HELVETAS Sri Lanka, Women and Media Collective and Journalists.

The engaging session commenced with a presentation on the Pros and Cons of Migration for Resilient Growth and Recovery in Sri Lanka by IPS Research Fellow Dr Bilesha Weeraratne.  This presentation drew from the IPS’ recently published Sri Lanka: State of the Economy 2023 report’s chapter on ‘Balancing Brain Drain and Immigrant Workers for Resilient Growth and Recovery’. Subsequently, the stakeholders deliberated on important research areas under the broad theme of migration, which included worker migration, student migration, permanent migration, remittances, overseas Sri Lankans, reintegration, trafficking, and inward migration of workers.

Emerging from these discussions were key thematic concerns, highlighting areas for future research. These included the lack of comprehensive data with respect to all forms of migration, trends in informal or illegal migration and their nexus with trafficking, issues surrounding skilled migration and brain drain and barriers for economic reintegration of return migrant workers.