The government is yet to respond to a United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) report that has detailed how Sri Lankan women are trafficked to Oman for sexual or labour exploitation.

UNHRC special rapporteurs Tomoya Obokata and Siobhan Mullally sent the report to president Ranil Wickremesinghe on February 07, 2023.

They have sought some of the salient information relating to the alleged HR violations against some 90 women.

These women initially travelled to Oman on tourist visas and were trapped in shelters, including at a shelter run by the Sri Lankan Embassy in Oman.


“It is alleged that several women have been subjected to trafficking in persons for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labour and servitude after having been promised employment as domestic workers in countries such as the United Arab Emirates,” said the report. “Some of the women have allegedly been sold in auctions and held in private households where they are exposed to sexual and/or labour exploitation, insufficient food and inadequate sleeping facilities.”


“Furthermore, it is our understanding that among the 90 women, some have been trafficked in groups through Dubai, where they had arrived on tourist visas and then were taken to Oman during the last two years.”

“We understand that some had registered with the Sri Lanka Foreign Employment Bureau and others migrated irregularly to the Middle East,” said the two special rapporteurs.

“We understand that the diplomat accused of deceiving, trafficking and sexually abusing women at the safe house of the Sri Lankan Embassy in Oman, was taken into remand custody in connection with the human trafficking allegations at the end of November 2022.”

“He was reportedly suspended from service and his diplomatic passport was revoked but he was given bail on his return to Sri Lanka.”

“We understand that other individuals who were allegedly involved in the trafficking of women to Oman have also been arrested.”

“We are concerned at these reports of trafficking in persons, violence against women and forced labour, committed against migrant women from Sri Lanka, and the involvement of at least one Government official in trafficking of persons between Sri Lanka and Oman, as well as the abuse of women at the shelter run by the Sri Lankan Embassy and the inadequate conditions and lack of protection reported at the shelter.”

“We are also concerned at the lack of access to effective remedies for these victims, and the limited information available on the investigations undertaken and international cooperation to date,” said the UNHRC report.



UNHRC special rapporteurs Tomoya Obokata and Siobhan Mullally


Reiterating the major setback relating to the management of Sri Lankan migrant workers sometime by the respective Sri Lankan foreign missions themselves, the report reminded some of the concerns expressed by special rapporteur Obokata on contemporary forms of slavery.

He visited Sri Lanka in November 2021.

In a report issued following his visit special rapporteur Obokata had pointed to gaps in the current migration management system in Sri Lanka.


Considering the urgency of the matter relating to Sri Lankan migrant workers harassed and stranded in Oman, two Special Rapporteurs had urged the Sri Lankan government to safeguard the rights of the female in compliance with international instruments.


Acting under the mandates provided by the Human Rights Council, to seek to clarify all cases brought to their attention, they had sought observations of the Sri Lankan government of the following;

  1. provide any additional information and any comment Sri Lankan may have on the above mentioned allegations.
  2. provide details, and where available the results, of any investigations, prosecution or criminal charges, and other inquiries carried out in relation to the allegations, and the methods of international cooperation with the country of destination (Oman);
  3. indicate what measures are taken to ensure the safe and voluntary return of the women victims of trafficking in persons for purposes of forced labour and sexual exploitation to Sri Lanka and how these measures ensure a safe and voluntary return; with ongoing measures of social inclusion, assistance and protection;
  4. indicate which channels/protocols for reporting human rights violations to Sri Lankan Embassies exist and how Sri Lankan Government is ensuring that complaints can be submitted safely, without fear of retaliation , and what training is in place for diplomatic and consular officials on the prevention of misconduct such as exploitation and abuse; identification of victims of trafficking and on assistance and protection obligations, in particular for women migrant workers;
  5. elaborate how the victims of trafficking and their families in Sri Lanka are protected from retaliation after having reported the trafficking and abuse suffered;
  6. indicate what types of assistance (regarding access to health services, food, legal and socio-social support, etc) victims of trafficking and labour/sexual exploitation receive at the shelter run by the Embassy of Sri Lanka in Oman;
  7. provide information on the measures being taken to ensure compliance with the State’s obligation of due diligence to prevent trafficking of women migrant workers, including through addressing the gender dimensions of risks of trafficking in persons and to ensure early identification, effective access to protection, and access to effectives remedies, including to compensation;
  8. provide information on measures taken to monitor offers of employment, to ensure that work contracts are valid and protect women’s rights on a basis of equality with men in countries of destination, and to provide assistance to women workers on arrival at their destinations, in accordance with the obligations states for countries of origin in CEDAW GR no.26.
  9. provide information on measures to strengthen cooperation between the Government of Oman and your Excellency’s Government in cross-border trafficking cases;
  10. specify what policies and other measures are in place regarding the prohibition of misconduct of Sri Lankan diplomatic personnel and to what extent monitoring and oversight is carried out by the Government;
  11. specify what measures are being taken to ensure safe and regular migration for employment opportunities for women, prior to departure from Sri Lanka;
  12. specify what measures are taken to support the role of civil society in prevention of trafficking in persons from Sri Lanka, particularly of women migrant workers, and in identification, and protection of victims of trafficking and other forms of exploitation, including through survivor-led initiatives and programmes.

Two Special Rapporteurs who urged Sri Lankan government for all necessary interim measures be taken to halt the alleged violations and prevent their re-occurrence and in the event that the investigations support or suggest the allegations to be correct, to ensure the accountability of any person responsible for the alleged violations.


While sharing the same report with the government of Oman, they further assured that any response received from Sri Lanka would be made public within 60 days. However, the government has not so far responded to the communication by the two UNHRC special rapporteurs.


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