Caritas Sri Lanka – SEDEC organized the Migrants Day Commemoration recently with the objective of celebrating the years of work carried out by the Social Arm of the Catholic Church for the betterment of the migrants and their families for many generations and decades. Along with the main ceremony a training workshop for the paralegals were also conducted to give them experience of facilitating cases of migrant returnees and migrant workers who are in need and distress at the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment ( SLBFE).

The 2-Day event was held on 31st of January and 1st February at the SEDEC auditorium. Diocesan migration coordinators, paralegal volunteers from the partner organizations called Deep Impact partners participated in the training workshop.
Caritas Sri Lanka had been implementing the safe migration programmes for decades under a Women Development Unit. At present the safe migration project implemented by Caritas Sri Lanka is named as, “Provision of Services to Migrant Workers and their Families in Sri Lanka” , funded by Swiss Development Corporation (SDC).

During the training workshop on the first day, the paralegal volunteers who work as grass-root level coordinators to the Safe Labour Migration Project in each diocese and district around the country were given a touch on experience as to how to lodge a complaint at the SLBFE – Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment.

The 42 participants were divided into 5 groups and each team was given a real case study taken from the Pack System (Data Base System which contains cases from partners to Caritas Sri Lanka for facilitation at the SLBFE and MFA). The cases ranged from salary not paid, contract violation and no communication. These cases were chosen based on the high number of available cases handled by the Caritas Sri Lanka migration staff. Later the specific task was explained to them in detail and was given bus and taxi fare to reach the SLBFE to lodge the complaint.

The objective of the task is to orient the volunteers to take up a pragmatic approach to various unforeseen events and contexts and to reach their goals, especially in the case handling mechanism. It was expected that this new experience would enlighten and broaden their scope in dealing with the ground level realties such as transport issues, locations, security, interacting government officers, presenting cases and penetrate the government bureaucratic systems with the ultimate goal of assisting the migrant workers and their families in their need.

On the second day, the official commemoration ceremony started with a prayer and Caritas Sri Lanka, National Director, Rev.Fr. Mahendra Gunatilleke welcomed Chief Guest, Guests of Honours, Special Guests and all the other participants. Fr. Mahendra appreciated the concerted work carried out by the Swiss Government, local organizations and individual for the betterment of the poor, marginalized and especially those in distress among the migrants and their family members. He also thanked the Ambassador for Switzerland in Sri Lanka, His Excellency Hanspeter Mock for the cordial relationship he has sustained over this period with Caritas Sri Lanka and the staff of the SDC for their dedication and passion towards the project and for the direction given through their constant guidance and companionship to the other partner organizations like Caritas Sri Lanka.

Later an input session was facilitated under the theme ‘Role of SLBFE on Safe Labour Migration’ by Mr. R. K. K. Mangala. P. Randeniya, Deputy General Manager for Training, Marketing & Recruitment, SLBFE.

Mr. W. M. V. Wanasekara, General Manager, SLBFE also addressed the audience and narrated how the government organization is working towards to improve the overall working conditions for the migrants workers and how the organizations is equipped to reach out to the migrants in distress in their need.
Next item of the agenda was an experience sharing of the previous day’s field exercise. A team leader who went to SLBFE to get an update on a specific case was able to narrate the sequence of the events.

After the field sharing, the Rt. Rev. Dr. Harold Anthony Perera, Chairman, Catholic National Commission for Migrant Workers addressed the gathering.
An important and unique feature of the commemoration ceremony was that Caritas Sri Lanka presenting the newly edited Safe Labour Migration booklet titled, “ Partners in Labour Migration” and a brochure under the titled ‘Case Management Procedures’ explaining the complaint handling guidelines .
There were also two experience sharing sessions facilitated by two migrant workers in Sinhala and Tamil languages.

His Excellency Hanspeter Mock, Ambassador for Switzerland in Sri Lanka also addressed the gathering and shared his views on the migration work carried out under the SDC.

Caritas also recognized the valuable work carried out by a few individuals who have contributed much towards the upliftment of the migrants and their families over the years. Rev. Sr. Angela and Dr. Ramani Jayasundere were facilitated at this event for their valuable services towards the safe labour migration industry.