Few migrant workers register

politics August 08, 2017 01:00


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illegal workforce will face harsh penalties, say authorities.

FEWER MIGRANT workers signed up at government registration centres than expected, with an estimated 40 to 50 per cent of illegal migrant workers participating. 

As a result, authorities have cautioned that employers and unregistered illegal workers could face harsh punishments.

Yesterday was the last day of the 15-day period for registering illegal migrant workers. 

However, Labour Ministry spokesperson Ananchai Uthaipattanachep said only 674,336 migrant workers had registered, adding that the remaining unregistered migrant workers would have to go back to their countries of origin and come back via the MOU [memorandum of understanding] system if both employers and workers want to avoid being charged.

Ananchai said business-sector estimates put the number of illegal workers in Thailand at around 2 million. The government had expected around 800,000 migrant workers would show up for registration, but less than 700,000 had.

“This 15-day migrant worker registration aims for the employers, who already hired illegal migrant workers, to register their employees and legalise their status,” Ananchai said. “But if they failed to grab this chance, they will have to let their employees return home and import them back in again via the more costly MOU system.

“Or else they may face charges per the new Migrant Worker Emergency Decree.”

The MOU system, based on an agreement between regional governments, is time-consuming and requires employers to work with costly consultants.

Director Sompong Srakaew of the Labour Rights Promotion Network Foundation said he was not surprised by the low turnout for registration, adding that the outcome was predictable because many business operators were sceptical of the procedure.

“We found that not many employers were registering their workers during the first days of the registration, as many were unsure about the overall procedures and the possible tax problems for their businesses. But we can see that many eventually turned up during the last days of registration,” Sompong said.

‘MOU system too costly’

He also complimented the policy, saying the government had done good work trying to relieve the impact of enforcement of the new migrant worker law. 

The registration was also well organised, he said, but cautioned that it could not solve the country’s worker shortage problem.

“In my opinion, the government should open similar registration sessions in the future as an alternative way to bring in legal migrant workers to drive our economy, because bringing in migrant workers via the MOU system is too costly for both workers and small employers,” he said.

Sompong added that severe punishments and the high cost of importing migrant workers would only encourage corruption among officers and benefit intermediaries who charge fees to bring in workers.

Ananchai also said registered workers would now have to pass an interview session with the Labour Ministry to guarantee their employment status with a current employer, after which they would have to pass the Certification of Identity (CI) via the CI one-stop service for workers of their nationalities.

Myanmar migrant workers will be able to go to one of nine CI centres across the country starting on August 24. Cambodian workers will have to go the CI centres in Bangkok, Rayong and Songkhla starting from late August. 

However, Lao workers will have to return to their country to certify their identities before coming back to Thailand to finish the procedure.