By: Hiranthi Jayaweera, Senior Researcher
This post is part of the joint blog series on ‘Gender and Migration’ co-hosted by Border Criminologies and COMPAS. Posts in this series will be published on both blogs every Friday until the end of June.
In February this year, the Ministry of Foreign Employment in Sri Lanka issued a circular titled ‘obtaining a Family Background Report of the women who aspire to go overseas for employment’ to administrators responsible for implementing the migration regulatory framework at a local – district, village – level. This family background report is specifically for women who ‘aspire’ to migrate as domestic workers or for any ‘non-professional employment’. The circular stipulates that on the basis of the report women with children under age 5 will not be ‘recommended’ for migration and those with older children will only be recommended if the officials are satisfied with the arrangements for the care of their children while the women are abroad. The circular simply formalises requirements and arrangements that have been in operation since 2013, the rationale for which is given as a concern ‘to prevent various difficulties and social problems that may be caused … when women migrate for employment without confirming the protection of their children.’ In the case of each woman, the official now needs to send a text message to the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment with her passport details and a code ‘R’ if recommended and ‘NR’ if not. A similar reporting requirement does not exist for male labour migrants, or presumably for women leaving for ‘professional’ jobs abroad. The restrictions on migrant domestic workers with children have been criticised by women’s rights organisations in Sri Lanka as interfering with the freedom of movement of women enshrined in international human rights conventions. It is of concern that despite all these criticisms over the past two years, the new circular simply reinforces the content of previous versions.