Although it might not be expected at first, it seems that everyone in Sri Lanka knows family or friends living in other countries for various reasons. Some people have fled from the conflict either as direct refugees from war torn areas or after being threatened into an unofficial exile. Most people though chose to travel abroad seeking personal development and economically secure futures.
As with other developing countries the local wages are much lower than the standards of the United States and Europe. A sliver of society are wealth by any standard, but most families scrape by earning only a few dollars a day, and even typical middle class salaries start at under two hundred dollars a month. In small part this might be attributed to a lower cost of living, but increasingly inflation has been undercutting families’ economic stability and remittances, money sent from relatives abroad, can be of vital support. Along with inflationary concerns, the conflict has severely impacted the national economy especially with regards to tourism and foreign investment which have plummeted. The skyrocketing military budget and domestic insecurity also depletes any efforts at internal development, as reflected by the faltering pace of community reconstruction following the devastating Tsunami on December 26, 2004.
As a result of these combined factors the increasing commonality of migration cuts across all classes and social groups. Every year women and men from lower income families journey to the Middle East and wealthier Asian countries as domestic workers and day laborers. England and India are frequent destinations for university students who can afford to earn their degrees abroad. And experienced practitioners of all professions work in distant lands covering every region of the world. Some of these people settle down permanently in their new countries, but many more travel internationally on a semi-permanent basis with an eventual return to Sri Lanka or else frequently splitting their residence after acquiring dual nationality. The family and social occasions that mark these now commonplace departures and returns seem to have become ingrained as a modern facet of traditional culture.
Posted By Adam Nord (Sri Lanka)
Posted Feb 24th, 2008