Uzbek women trafficked to Sri Lanka for sex

● Foreigners promised employment 
● Internal trafficking continues 
● Govt. assures steps taken to deal with issue 
● Sri Lanka risks being downgraded in TIP report 
● Brothels operating with VIP backing

Women from Uzbekistan are being trafficked to Sri Lanka for sex after being promised employment at hotels or as childcare workers, Daily Mirror learns.

Officials working to combat human trafficking in Sri Lanka revealed that a number of women trafficked to Sri Lanka from Uzbekistan have been assisted over the past few months.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, officials said that the foreigners either arrive in Sri Lanka as tourists or on a work visa and are forced into sex.

● Some victims refuse to co-operate in the investigations because doing so would mean they will be required to stay in Sri Lanka for 2-3 years till a judgement is delivered

The official said that the women who escape and seek support often face issues with shelters or safe houses. “most foreign women are reluctant to seek support at a government shelter and instead prefer shelters operated by a UN agency, private shelter or faith based shelters,” the official said.

However, the official further noted that there is an issue with space at some shelters while others are refusing to accommodate people because of Covid .“there have also been instances where local traffickers roam around shelters placing the victims at risk,” the official said.

Daily Mirror also learns that some trafficked women are in Sri Lanka for 4-5 months after seeking protection as their case is before court. “Psychologically they are affected and we provide them with counselling during the time their case is ongoing,” the official said.

The official said that some victims refuse to co-operate in the investigations because doing so would mean they will be required to stay in Sri Lanka for 2-3 years till a judgement is delivered.“we usually alert the CID when it involves a foreign victim who seeks our assistance.the CID is prompt in rescuing the victims.but after that they have to wait.we talk about victim-centric approaches but in practice nothing happens,” the official further noted.

The official also revealed that Internal trafficking is also continuing with some brothels operating with powerful backing.the official said that they are often alerted about such brothels by authorities who find that their hands are tied because of the involvement of VIP’S. Human trafficking in Sri Lanka is at a level that the country faces the risk of being downgraded in the 2022 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP Report) issued by the US.

Daily Mirror learns from sources in the US that Sri Lanka, which is currently on the Watch List in the TIP Report, is likely to be downgraded for failing to take adequate measures to combat human trafficking. The US has already sought information for the

2022 Trafficking in Persons Report. Kari Johnstone, Senior Official at the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the US Department of State has sought the information before February 1, 2022.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defence noted that steps are being taken to amend the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment Act No. 21 of 1985 and to further amend the Immigration and Emigration

Act No. 20 of 1948, to bring in more appropriate local legislative provisions in line with the United Nations Convention against International Organized Crime, especially its provisions on the prevention, suppression and punishment of trafficking of women and children. The Anti-human Trafficking Task Force operating under the Ministry of Defence hopes to launch a number of proactive measures to combat the menace of human trafficking in Sri Lanka within the coming year. (EASWARAN RUTNAM)

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