Empowering Sri Lanka’s migrant workers through language training


Sri Lanka - A multimedia foreign language learning centre for outbound migrant workers was officially opened last week in Ratmalana as part of a program implemented by IOM in partnership with the Sri Lanka Bureau of Foreign Employment (SLBFE), with support from the IOM Development Fund.  The centre is one of the largest language training facilities in Sri Lanka and has the capacity to train approximately 1,800 workers annually.

The centre offers a new approach to language learning, using digital content to provide a high-quality interactive learning environment for migrant workers to improve their foreign language proficiency, with a focus largely on speaking practice.

To begin with, the centre will conduct 80 hour English courses tailored for would-be caregivers and housekeepers planning to work in countries where English is widely spoken such as Cyprus, Hong Kong, Singapore and Israel.  IOM is expected to manage operation of the centre for a year, after which management will be taken over by the SLBFE.

Opening the centre, Minister of Foreign Employment Promotion and Welfare Dilan Perera said: “I am confident that this project by IOM will benefit migrant workers enormously through providing them with new skills to increase their employability and earn higher remuneration.”

The 1.6 million strong Sri Lankan migrant worker community currently accounts for about nine per cent of Sri Lankan GDP.  But there is concern for the protection of the rights of migrants, the majority of whom hail from rural and impoverished backgrounds. Lack of foreign language proficiency is therefore a key issue.  Inability to communicate often renders migrant workers helpless in workplace conflicts and without protection against exploitation or abuse. 

“Improving foreign language skills will contribute to the empowerment of Sri Lankan migrant workers which will in turn lead to better rights protection and more dignified working conditions,” said IOM Sri Lanka Chief of Mission Giuseppe Crocetti.

IOM, in partnership with the government and private sector, plans to replicate this model laboratory for the benefit of all prospective migrant workers by establishing regional language laboratories in existing training centres across the country.

For more information please contact

Giuseppe Crocetti
IOM Sri Lanka
Email: gcrocetti@iom.int