Image from my Sri Lankan passport.
A Sri Lankan passport is one of the worst for traveling overseas, as ranked by Henley & Partners. We’re in company with Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq, Pakistan, Eritrea, Palestine, Nepal, the Sudan, Kosovo and the Lebanon. As every Sri Lankan knows. Getting visas for anywhere besides India or Singapore is really difficult and places like China don’t allow us individual tourist visas at all. This is largely, of course, because of the toxic war that tied many Sri Lankan emigres to terrorism, arms dealing, financial fraud, etc. But it’s also because our economy is such that people do want to flee.
On Republic Square they connect these visa restrictions to our international relations, which are admittedly shit, but I don’t think it’s quite that. I think it’s broadly linked to the behavior of Sri Lankan people (as caused by national conditions, but whatever). Are Sri Lankans likely to overstay their visas or disappear – yes. Were Sri Lankans likely to get mixed up in terrorist financing, credit card fraud, extortion, etc – yes. I think that’s what they evaluate. As in, it’s not just the country, they don’t like us.
On a personal level, I know a fair amount of people who’ve been denied visas to the UK, Canada, etc. The new (court over-ruled but still operational) UK policy even keeps married couples apart, from any non-EU nationality, which affects Sri Lankans as well.
Personally, I think that migration should be like trade, as free as possible. Just allowing freer migration can unleash trillions of dollars in economic value, if done slowly, plus the idea that humans are not free to cross invisible lines on this earth seems fundamentally wrong.
However, this is what it is. Some nationalities have more freedom to move around than others, mainly the ones that you couldn’t imagine fleeing from (ie, Canada). Some, mainly those where economic mismanagement is mixed with war, are on lock down. For the present moment, sadly, that includes Sri Lanka.