Statement by Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera at the 5th Ministerial Meeting of the Colombo Process

Statement by Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera at the 5th Ministerial Meeting of the Colombo Process


Statement by Hon. Mangala Samaraweera, M.P. Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka, at the Inauguration of the 5th Ministerial Meeting of the Colombo Process: 25th August 2016, Colombo-Sri Lanka

Madam Chairperson, Hon. Thalatha Atukorala, Minister of Foreign Employment,
Director-General of IOM, His Excellency Ambassador William Lacy Swing,
Hon. visiting Ministers, who are attending the 5th Ministerial Meeting of the Colombo Process,
Excellencies, distinguished delegates and friends,

I am pleased to join you this morning at the inauguration of the 5th Ministerial Meeting of the Colombo Process (CP). This forum, since its inception in 2003 in Colombo, has been promoting the rights and welfare of Asian contractual labour migrants. The Colombo Process remains a useful and voluntary forum for its 11 Member States[1] to collectively respond to the challenges that our migrant workers face. The notable progress that has been achieved over the past 13 years within this Regional Consultative Process demonstrates our solidarity and collective endeavours.   

While warmly welcoming Director General of the International Organization for Migration, Ambassador William Swing to Sri Lanka, I take this opportunity to congratulate the IOM for its 65 years of committed service for the welfare and safety of migrants. We note with admiration IOM’s recent admittance to the UN system as a related organization. It is indeed appropriate to applaud the role of IOM in facilitating migration, in particular for its assistance to the Colombo Process Member countries. 

Excellencies, distinguished delegates,

The present global trends and the complexities in migration are such that no single country could find solutions to those challenges. Nor would there be one-size fits all responses. International migration is a contemporary reality in an interconnected world, for which the best management solutions are required. We should make migration a considered choice for the potential migrants and their families.   

With the increasing number of human movements worldwide, we note that migration has become a key focus, including within the United Nations. With the upcoming High Level Meeting of the UN General Assembly on ‘Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants’ next month in New York, there will be further engagement by Member States to develop a process to introduce a ‘Global Compact for Safe, Regular and Orderly Migration’ by year 2018. Sri Lanka fully supports these multilateral efforts to reach productive conclusions within the relevant international legal frameworks. 

Excellencies, distinguished delegates,

I commend your collective efforts in the Colombo Process, in particular for putting into action the five thematic areas during Sri Lanka’s Chairmanship. This action oriented road map addresses issues related to ‘recognition of skills of the migrant workers’, as well as to introduce ‘ethics, norms and standards into the recruitment industry’, which yet again is a key player in the contractual labour migration process. Also, Colombo Process has made efforts to ‘develop cheaper, safer and faster modes of remittance transfers’. I hope these efforts will facilitate us in realizing the UN SDG target of less than 3% remittances cost for migrant workers. Further, how we ‘orient and train our migrant workers prior to their departures’ remains a key priority with a view to avoid desperation or distress at work. The forum’s agenda on ‘conducting research and sharing information on labour markets’ seems promising. I encourage you to continue closer engagements in these priority areas. 

Excellencies, distinguished delegates,

The ongoing interactions between the Colombo Process and the Abu Dhabi Dialogue (ADD) could bring vital new elements. Both the labour sending and the receiving countries could find a meaningful way forward through this mutual interaction. When Sri Lanka assumes the Chairmanship of Abu Dhabi Dialogue next year, a separate secretariat and an institutional mechanism for the forum are desired to focus more on migration issues. 

Excellencies, distinguished delegates,

We fully recognize that the hard earned money of the expatriate workers, often in distress conditions, contributes immensely in reducing social inequalities in all our countries. In my own country, these hardworking citizens support our economy in a remarkable way. They comprise 25% of our full-employable population who annually remit over 60% of our total foreign earnings[2]. We are committed to ensuring that the migrant workers have safe and dignified employment abroad. Despite all efforts, I must acknowledge that some migrant workers face unfortunate tragedies and hardships and my Ministry along with the Ministry of Foreign Employment has done its best to represent the interests of our workers on such occasions. My Ministry has disbursed a sum of (Sri Lankan Rupees) 181 million as compensation to 181 distressed persons and families within the last eight months of this year. 

Excellencies, distinguished delegates,

As we emphasize on safe and orderly migration, there is a considerable number of our citizens falling prey to human trafficking or human smuggling. These illegal and irregular means of migration puts valuable lives at risk. Hence, we are determined to reinforce stringent domestic measures. With that in mind, Sri Lanka ratified the Trafficking Protocol of the Palermo Protocols in June last year. It is important to build our capacities to prevent trafficking and smuggling in persons by introducing coherent policies, regulations and legislations.

We have taken note of the useful recommendations provided to us by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights of Migrants, following his visit to Sri Lanka in May 2014. The new government that came to power in January 2015, under the leadership of President Maithripala Sirisena, adopted a new policy on our interactions with the international community. We abandoned the previous government’s policy of self-isolation. Instead we have embraced the policy of engagement. We are currently having a very constructive dialogue with the United Nations and the wider international community. Of course, the advancement of migration issues will be an integral part of our three-fold efforts to achieve vibrant democracy, reconciliation and development. 

We will also be participating in the second review of the International Convention on the Rights of the Migrant Workers and the Welfare of their Families (CMW) next week in Geneva, and we encourage giving consideration to this international instrument. 

Finally, I wish to thank Minister Atukorale and the organizers for a successful Ministerial Meeting in Colombo and assure you the fullest cooperation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to advance your deliberations.


Thank you.   

[1] Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam
[2] Source-Central Bank Economic and Social Statistics 2015

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