Sri Lanka Migrant Health Policy Debate


Sri Lanka - Three years of research into migrants' health, consultations with stakeholders and capacity building will come to fruition in Colombo tomorrow when Sri Lanka’s Minister for Health presents a proposed National Migration Health Policy for public debate.

The document is the result of a lengthy IOM-government collaboration aimed at understanding and improving the physical and mental health of migrants – outgoing and incoming – and their families.

A migration health policy is seen as an important goal by the Sri Lankan government as the economy benefits to the tune of USD 5.1 billion from its two million international labour migrants.

A less well-known fact is that growth in the post-conflict economy is leading Sri Lanka to become a labour receiving country. Ensuring safe and healthy migration for the benefit of all is a concept to which the Government of Sri Lanka has committed to through this policy document, with the support of IOM.

Before this research project started little was known about the impact of migration on the one in ten Sri Lankans who are currently working overseas, nor the health status of the families that they leave behind.

The health impact on migrant and mobile populations from internal, outbound and inbound migration had never been systematically examined until IOM partnered with the government to establish the national migration health programme in December 2009.

The culmination of this work comes tomorrow when Minister of Health Matreepala Sirisena will present the national policy document to the government and for public debate.  More than 60 senior government officials, policy makers, UN, NGOs and academics will meet in Colombo for the initial presentation and discussion of the policy draft.

It marks a major milestone not only for the Government of Sri Lanka, but also for IOM’s global work on addressing the health needs of migrant and mobile populations, and for advancing the World Health Assembly resolution on the health of migrants.

According to IOM Chief of Mission in Sri Lanka Richard Danziger, “The world is waking up to the need to address the health of migrants, not only through the lens of vulnerability, but also in recognizing the importance of migrant health to national prosperity and achieving public health outcomes.

“Sri Lanka is the first country in the United Nations World Health Assembly to present progress on the Resolution on Migrant Health,” he notes.

The policy process has already led to a number of significant outcomes, including the approval of a cabinet paper for migrant health assessment as part of the resident visa application process; training for staff in Sri Lanka’s Foreign Employment Bureau; capacity building in the area of managing cases of worker abuse; and the establishment of a “healthy return and re-integration” programme for returning refugees from India.

IOM has also assisted the Government of Sri Lanka in creating a dedicated web portal linked to Ministry of Health and IOM websites that serves as a repository of all migration health related information.  

To consult the link go to:  

For more information, please contact  

Richard Danziger
IOM Sri Lanka