Sri Lanka will soon replace the discriminatory Family Background Report (FBR) regulations imposed on female migrant workers leaving the country for foreign employment with a supportive family background plan scheme.
Telecommunication, Foreign Employment and Sports Minister Harin Fernando on Monday said a Cabinet-appointed committee which looked into the controversial FBR regulations has submitted a report to the Cabinet of Ministers recommending the relaxing of restrictions and instead of adopting a family background plan scheme for female migrant workers leaving the country.
The key members of the Cabinet-appointed committee apart from Fernando compromised of Finance and Mass Media Minister Mangala Samaraweera, Justice and Prison Reforms Minister Thalatha Atukorale.
Fernando said that his ministry is awaiting the approval of President Maithripala Sirisena to replace FBR regulations with the proposed new scheme.
The controversial FBR regulations on female labour migrants were introduced in 2013, aiming to minimize the psycho-social cost on children of female migrants by imposing restriction on females with children under the age of five years for foreign employment.
Females with children above five years were only recommended for migration if satisfactory alternative care arrangements were in place to ensure children’s protection.
Divisional Secretariat offices were in charge of giving approval for females with children to migrate for employment purposes while Foreign Employment Development Officers administered the FBR regulations.
A report released by International Labour Organisation (ILO) last year, highlighted that despite the strict adherence to the FBR, female migrant workers have managed to leave behind children under the age of five years and migrate.
“Recruitment intermediaries, also known as sub-agents are playing a central role in facilitating this process, placing them as a confidant, and a saviour to women by offering other avenues of leaving the country, “ILO said.
In addition, civil society organisations identified the FBR regulations as discriminatory on females as they free the male/father of children’s responsibilities.
Fernando also noted that FBR regulations and the approval process discouraged the intended female labour migrant workers to seek foreign employments through legal channels.
“The officials have the responsibility of looking after the family, guiding the family and submitting an entire report rather than a restriction; we want to try and support them (female migrant workers) to move forward,” he said.
According to ILO statistics on FBR restrictions, the total number of women migrating for work has reduced from 138,312 in 2012 to 90,677 in 2015. The figures further deceased to 66,971 females in 2018. (NF)