On The Move In Search of Greener Pastures : Unsafe Migration and Human Trafficking in Sri Lankas Tea Plantation Sector
The tea plantation sector, which is closely-connected to the colonial history of Sri Lanka, is important
in terms of foreign exchange earnings and securing millions of peoples livelihoods. Despite the
contribution of tea to its economy, Sri Lanka, as a state has yet to address the persisting economic,
social and political issues of the people living in the tea plantations. Amongst other issues faced by
the workers in the tea plantation sector, like poverty, low wages, issues in access to healthcare, housing and education, the outflow of labour from plantation communities caused by an increasing numbers of workers leaving the estates in search of work outside, has been identified as an important phenomenon. Available anecdotal evidence from the tea plantation sector in the study districts of Badulla, Matale and Nuwara Eliya suggests, that migrationboth internal and increasingly internationalis becoming an important livelihood strategy. However, the total volume of migration taking place is unreported and under-reported, leading to unsafe migration that is resulting in different types of vulnerabilities to migrants and their families. Hence, such migration trends and patterns warrant further consideration and scrutiny. This research attempts to fill this gap by situating itself within the framework of migration, development and gender. In doing so, it draws from the lived experiences of returnees, in-service and prospective migrants through the use of extensive, participatory qualitative methods, and through individual articulation of migration experiences. This research provides an understanding of the causes, trends, processes and myths surrounding labour migration within the tea plantation sector and the associated socio-economic dynamics that would lead to a stakeholder dialogue on the issue to stimulate an adequate and appropriate policy, as well as institutional dialogue and lobbying.