Main Menu
Street Children

Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery

Poverty drives the unsuspecting poor into the hands of traffickers

Published reports & articles from 2000 to 2025                        

Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka

Currently, the ruling Sri Lanka Freedom Party has a more statist economic approach, which seeks to reduce poverty by steering investment to disadvantaged areas, developing small and medium enterprises, promoting agriculture, and expanding the already enormous civil service. The government has halted privatizations.

About 1.5 million Sri Lankans work abroad, 90% of them in the Middle East. They send home more than $2.5 billion a year.  [The World Factbook, U.S.C.I.A. 2009]

Description: Description: SriLanka

Sri Lanka is primarily a source and, to a much lesser extent, a destination for men and women trafficking for the purposes of forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. Sri Lankan men and women migrate willingly to Kuwait, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Bahrain, and Singapore to work as construction workers, domestic servants, or garment factory workers. Some of these workers find themselves in situations of involuntary servitude when faced with restrictions on movement, withholding of passports, threats, physical or sexual abuse, and debt bondage that is, in some instances, facilitated by large pre-departure fees imposed by labor recruitment agencies and their unlicensed sub-agents. Children are trafficked within the country for commercial sexual exploitation and, very infrequently, for forced labor. - U.S. State Dept Trafficking in Persons Report, June, 2009   Check out a later country report here and possibly a full TIP Report here



CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Sri Lanka.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Human Trafficking are of particular interest to you.  Would you like to write about Forced-Labor?  Debt Bondage? Prostitution? Forced Begging? Child Soldiers? Sale of Organs? etc.  On the other hand, you might choose to include precursors of trafficking such as poverty and hunger. There is a lot to the subject of Trafficking.  Scan other countries as well.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.


Check out some of the Resources for Teachers attached to this website.

HELP for Victims

International Organization for Migration, IOM
11 5325 300
Country code: 94-



'100 kids abused daily' in Sri Lanka

Susannah Price, Colombo Correspondent, BBC News, February 9, 1999

[accessed 24 December 2010]

The scale of the abuse has never been widely investigated. The researchers into this first draft study on sexually exploited and abused children concluded there were between 10,000-15,000 boys involved in the sex trade, not only in beach areas but also in the hill country and near other tourst sites.  They found the boys were mostly aged between eight and 15 and while most of them came from fishing hamlets and coastal villages, about a third were lured from the inland rural areas by promises of work.


*** ARCHIVES ***

2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Sri Lanka

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 25 June 2021]


Traffickers exploited men, women, and children in forced labor and commercial sexual exploitation. Traffickers recruited women from rural areas with promises of urban jobs in the hospitality sector, salons, spas, and domestic work but exploited some in forced labor. While conditions for most tea plantation workers on larger corporate tea estates met international certification standards, such as Fair Trade, some smaller tea estate owners exploited men and women in bonded labor. NGOs documented cases in which employers “sold” workers’ debts to another estate and forced the workers to move. The same reports stated that some tea estates illegally deducted more than 75 percent of workers’ daily earnings for miscellaneous fees and repayment of debts, including charging workers for the pay slip itself. Three international organizations reported the forced labor continued on at least nine tea estates during the year.


Children worked in the construction, manufacturing, mining, transport, street vending, and fishing industries and as cleaners and helpers, domestic workers, and street vendors. Children also worked in agriculture during harvest periods. Children displaced by the war were especially vulnerable to employment in hazardous labor.

Freedom House Country Report

2020 Edition

[accessed 7 July 2020]


Migrant workers recruited in Sri Lanka are often exposed to exploitative labor conditions abroad. Although the government has increased penalties for employing minors, many children continue to work as household servants and face abuse from employers. Women and children in certain communities are vulnerable to forced sex work. The government has made some attempts to address human trafficking, but prosecutions and measures to identify and protect victims remain inadequate, and complicity among public officials is a serious problem, according to the US State Department.

2017 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

Office of Child Labor, Forced Labor, and Human Trafficking, Bureau of International Labor Affairs, US Dept of Labor, 2018

[accessed 22 April 2019]

[accessed 6 May 2020]

Note:: Also check out this country’s report in the more recent edition DOL Worst Forms of Child Labor

[page 921]

There are reports of children from tea estates being trafficked internally to perform domestic work in Colombo; their payments are withheld and their movements are restricted. (2) Children, predominantly boys, are also forced into commercial sexual exploitation in coastal areas as part of the sex tourism industry. (2; 15).

Sri Lanka takes measures to curb illegal migration

ColomboPage News Desk, Sri Lanka, December 15, 2007

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 28 August 2011]

Media Secretary to the Ministry of Child Development and Woman's Empowerment Indrani Sugathadasa said that human trafficking is not a large scale problem in Sri Lanka compared to other South Asian countries.  However Sri Lankan men and women who migrate legally to work as laborers or housemaids to Middle Eastern countries find themselves in situations of involuntary servitude as they are faced with restricted movement and physical or sexual abuse. According to Sri Lanka’s Foreign Employment Bureau, about one million Sri Lankans work abroad, of whom 60 percent are women. Of these, 54 percent work as domestic workers and are subject to risks of abuse, sexual harassment and forced labor.

How Human Traffickers Snare Poor Victims to Kenya Misery

Dominic Wabala, The Nation (Nairobi), January 8, 2007

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 11 September 2011]

The story of the six young men started in Jaffna, eastern Sri Lanka, from where they were lured with promises of hotel jobs in Cyprus. "There are many young people who would jump at the chance of working in Europe. It is better than being unemployed and poor at home," one of the young men, Francis Angelo, told the Sunday Nation.

Each of them fell victim to a man who passed himself as an employment agent. The man, only identified as Hilmy, was known for scouring the villages of eastern and central Sri Lanka in search of gullible youth willing to risk everything they owned for a chance to work in Europe.

Karuna Group and LTTE Continue Abducting and Recruiting Children

Human Rights Watch, New York, 29 March 2007

[accessed 24 December 2010]

Despite promises to investigate abductions of children by the pro-government Karuna group, Sri Lankan authorities have taken no effective action and abductions continue, Human Rights Watch said today. The armed opposition Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) also continue to recruit children in Sri Lanka and use them as soldiers.

Commentary: 'I am an orphan, not a child soldier. . . '

SiberNews Commentary, 13 November 2007

[accessed 24 December 2010]

You as a reader put your self in one of these situations. How would you react? Would you not want to protect your brothers and sisters from the same tortures that you faced? Or would you be thinking about child rights and just watch others being put through the same misery as you. If we had given these children's a good life and education, they would follow international child rights standards. But what the government did was take these away from them and teach them that those rights are only in paper. What then stops them from picking up arms to protect themselves and others?

Joint Effort To Nab Lankan Tsunami Child Trafficking Trawler

Upali Rupasinghe in Kolkata, Daily News, 20 January 2005

[accessed 24 December 2010]

[accessed 28 September 2016]

The Indian Coast Guard along with the Indian Navy and Police are trying to locate a fishing trawler said to be packed with Sri Lankan tsunami orphans to be sold to Western couples by child traffickers.

Free Democracy

February 23, 2006

[accessed 30 November 2010]

UAE : HORRENDOUS RECORD OF CHILD SLAVERY - WORK WORRIES - Sri Lankan women are trafficked to Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar, mainly as sex workers or for forced labor.

Orphaned children face a new nightmare of abuse

Farah Farouque and Linda Morris, The Sydney Morning Herald, 5 January 2005

Click [here] to access the article.  Its URL is not displayed because of its length

[accessed 24 June 2013]

In Thailand, a 12-year-old Swedish boy may have been abducted from a hospital, and in Sri Lanka The Island reported yesterday that Tiger rebels in the north, who have a history of using child soldiers, had begun to abduct displaced children under the guise of offering shelter.  The Island claimed the Tigers, whose numbers have seriously diminished in their north-eastern strongholds, were targeting boys aged between 12 and 14.

Tamil Tigers Forcibly Recruit Child Soldiers

Human Rights Watch, New York, 11 November 2004

[accessed 24 December 2010]

By abducting children or threatening their families, the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have recruited thousands of child soldiers in Sri Lanka since active fighting ended in 2002, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE, or Tamil Tigers) use intimidation and threats to pressure Tamil families in the north and east of Sri Lanka to provide sons and daughters for military service. When families refuse, their children are sometimes abducted from their homes at night or forcibly recruited while walking to school. Parents who resist the recruitment of their children face retribution from the Tamil Tigers, including violence or detention.

Living in Fear - Child Soldiers and the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka

Human Rights Watch Report, November 10, 2004

[accessed 24 December 2010]

SUMMARY - LTTE RECRUITMENT AND USE OF CHILDREN BEFORE THE CEASE-FIRE - Second, children who witnessed or suffered abuses by Sri Lankan security forces often felt driven to join the LTTE. Government abuses prior to the cease-fire included unlawful detention, interrogation, torture, execution, enforced disappearances, and rape. A 1993 study of adolescents in Vaddukoddai in the North found that one quarter of the children studied had witnessed violence personally.3 In response, many children joined the LTTE, seeking to protect their families or to avenge real or perceived abuses.

Sri Lanka: hotbed for sexual exploitation of children

Tamil Eelam News Services, 23 Jun 2004

[accessed 24 December 2010]

Of the 1643 cases reported last year, 734 of them were related to sexual abuse and much to the alarm of children’s rights advocates, only a meagre 30 foreign paedophiles have been arrested over the past two years and few have been prosecuted.

“Children are not only being sexually abused here by pedophiles from other countries, but Sri Lanka also serves as a transit point for smuggling children to and from other countries,” said a children’s rights advocate.  Concern over Sri Lanka being a transit point mounted after seven Chinese orphans were detected at the Katunanayake airport while they were on their way to the West. They were being accompanied by suspected traffickers whom authorities believe may have been taking them for organ transplant or child sex.

End Child Exploitation - Faces of Exploitation [PDF]

UNICEF, Faces of Exploitation, January 2003, ISBN: 1 871440 26 2

[accessed 24 December 2010]

[page 22]

CHILDREN IN THE SEX INDUSTRY - Children may also work independently, offering themselves for cash, as do many of the 10,000 to 15,000 boys selling themselves to sex tourists on the beaches of Sri Lanka.


ECPAT International annual report - July 2002 - June 2003

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 11 September 2011]

[page 109]

ECPAT Sri Lanka/PEACE - PEACE was launched in 1989 against the commercial sexual exploitation and abuse of children by both local and foreign paedophiles. It has a 20 member Consultative Committee, a 5 member Core Committee, a network of Children’s/Youth Clubs, and a host of volunteers carrying out its aims and objectives. Its objectives are to create awareness of the problem of sexual exploitation of children and child labour in Sri Lanka; to influence National Policy related to the protection of children; and to prevent children from being lured or forced into prostitution and hazardous employment.

Prostitution of Children and Child-Sex Tourism: - An Analysis of Domestic and International Responses [PDF]

Eva J. Klain, JD, American Bar Association Center on Children and the Law, April 1999

[accessed 31 August 2014]

[accessed 18 February 2018]

[page 34]

OVERVIEW OF THE PROBLEM - Sri Lanka: 100,000 children between the ages of 6 and 14 are kept in brothels and an additional 5,000 children between 10 and 18 are working in tourist areas.

Invitation to Sri Lanka Apparel Sourcing Fair


At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 11 September 2011]

COMPLIANCE - Sri Lanka has an exemplary record as a socially compliant producer.  Sri  Lanka has no child labor or forced labor complies with health and safety standards and employs best practice in labor standards.

Poverty, Globalization, Social Customs & South Asian Children in Prostitution [PDF]

Zahid Shahab Ahmed (Pakistan), 2005

[accessed 25 December 2010]

INTRODUCTION [page 5] Child prostitution is rampant in Sri Lanka. The availability of child sex is publicized in magazines, web sites and chat rooms. According to a study there are 15,000 children engaged in the sex trade. The government itself estimates there are approximately 30,000 children involved. Sex tourism is easily seen and widely known to occur in the south and southwestern coast. Boys victimized here are known as Beach Boys. They operate in gangs or independently.

An Inconvenient Truth

Samantha Catanese, Immaculata High School Child Slave Labor IHSCSL News, December 2006

[accessed 25 December 2010]

"I work in a house that has five family members. I’m the only servant. I’m very busy all day working, washing, cleaning and preparing food. The children in the family go to school, but I don’t get to go. They can also watch television, but I’m not allowed. I’m not allowed to play with the children. I’m always working. I sleep on the floor in the dining room. I’ve never been home to visit since beginning this work. My parents came to visit me twice, and collected some money from the family, but I don’t know how much." -- Salani Radnayaka, a ten-year-old girl working as a live-in domestic servant for a family in Colombo, Sri Lanka

The US State Department Charges That The LTTE Terrorists Sexually Exploit Some Children After Abduction From Homes

Walter Jayawardhana, LankaWeb, Los Angeles, 6 November 2002

[accessed 25 December 2010]

[Large Link]

[accessed 6 May 2020]

In the second annual report presented to the Congress for the year 2002, through which the United States was seeking to bring international attention to "the horrific practice of trafficking in persons" the US State Department said, "The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) abduct and hold children against their will for purposes of forced labor, military conscription and in some cases, sexual exploitation. A ceasefire with the LTTE has been in place since December 2001."

Easy Targets - Violence Against Children Worldwide

Human Rights Watch Report, September 2001

[accessed 25 December 2010]

VII. VIOLENCE IN THE WORKPLACE - In Sri Lanka, Human Rights Watch spoke to about seventy children during a 1998 investigation of the treatment of child domestic workers. Almost all of the children reported being punished by their employer for being “naughty,” for being careless, or for not completing assigned tasks. The punishment ranged from deprivation of privileges, to smacking, and beatings with a cane or stick. Several children had been deliberately burnt. Some of the children had been badly injured during these “punishment” sessions and many had scars caused by beatings.

Several of the Sri Lankan girls we interviewed also experienced sexual abuse at the hands of their employer, their employer’s children, or their employer’s friends. Such abuse is frequently known to agents who arrange for the children’s employment. One agent told us of how he had recruited over a thousand children for domestic service when he knew that the primary purpose of the recruitment was sexual.

Sri Lanka urged to tackle child trafficking

Kyodo News International, Colombo, 3 Jan. 2001

At one time this article had been archived and may possibly still be accessible [here]

[accessed 11 September 2011]

The latest statistics reveal there are more than 100,000 child vagrants in Sri Lanka below the age of 16.  Many work like slaves in tea kiosks, small restaurants and as domestic servants under pathetic and unpleasant conditions.  Some girls and boys are used by drug dealers and smugglers to transport and sell drugs and contraband goods and some are used to beg on the streets.  Almost none of the children are able to go to school and children, both male and female and as young as 11, are forced into brothels.  Additionally, the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam often use young boys and girls as child soldiers.  And the figures are increasing day by day.

Concluding Observations of the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, 6 June 2003

[accessed 24 December 2010]

[49] The Committee welcomes the State party’s ratification of ILO Conventions Nos. 138 and 182 in 2000 and 2001, respectively.  Nevertheless, it remains concerned at the high proportion of children, including very young children, working as domestic servants, in the plantation sector, on the street and in other parts of the informal sector.

Human Rights Overview

Human Rights Watch

[accessed 24 December 2010]


Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 11 February 2020]

TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS – Internal trafficking in male children was also a problem, especially from areas bordering the northern and eastern provinces. Protecting Environment and Children Everywhere, a domestic NGO, estimated that there were 6 thousand male children between the ages of 8 and 15 years engaged as sex workers at beach and mountain resorts. Some of these children were forced into prostitution by their parents or by organized crime.

The Department of Labor’s 2004 Findings on the Worst Forms of Child Labor

U.S. Dept of Labor Bureau of International Labor Affairs, 2005

[accessed 24 December 2010]

Note:: Also check out this country’s report in the more recent edition DOL Worst Forms of Child Labor

INCIDENCE AND NATURE OF CHILD LABOR - Some children from rural areas are reportedly sent to work as domestic servants in urban households where, due to debts owed by their parents to traffickers, they may find themselves in situations that amount to debt bondage.  The government estimates that more than 2,000 children are engaged in prostitution.  The majority of children engaged in prostitution are victimized by local citizens, though there are reports of sex tourism as well.  Trafficking of children typically does not cross national borders; children are trafficked within the country to work as domestic servants and for the purposes of sexual exploitation, especially at tourist destinations.

All material used herein reproduced under the fair use exception of 17 USC § 107 for noncommercial, nonprofit, and educational use.  PLEASE RESPECT COPYRIGHTS OF COMPONENT ARTICLES.  Cite this webpage as: Patt, Prof. Martin, "Human Trafficking & Modern-day Slavery – Sri Lanka",, [accessed <date>]