Millions of migrant workers at risk

national February 22, 2014 00:00

By Myanmar Eleven

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More than 100, 000 Myanmar workers in Thailand now risk arrest and deportation, and more will fall into the same situation if the governments of Thailand and Myanmar do not act to solve a legal issue, said a non-profit organisation.

The Migrant Worker Rights Network (MWRN) issued today another statement, calling on the governments to ease the rules that would allow the workers to continue to stay legally in Thailand. The statement followed an earlier move which culminated in a bilateral discussion in September 2013. 
“The Thai government and Myanmar government recently said it cannot do anything as political chaos continues in Thailand. This issue is urgent, the deadline for workers’ legal stay already started to pass nine months ago,” MWRN said in an e-mailed interview.
From about 3 million, 100,000 workers are now in Thailand with their permission to stay expired in June 2013. 
According to MWRN, about 2 million workers are now in Thailand on temporary passports, issued by the Myanmar government. The trouble started when the Myanmar government planned to convert the temporary passports to permanent ones. This decision is causing great angst for workers as reportedly a family registration certificate and ID card is required.
The migrant workers are also shouldering an extra cost, aside from the one charged by agents and brokers.
“At this time of crisis in Thailand’s migration policy, Thailand’s Labour Ministry has now also announced it will implement from March 1, 2014 a law requiring collection of Bt1,000 from migrant workers’ salaries to pay into a deportation fund in case of unlawful overstay and deportation,” MWRN said, calling this discriminative as workers of nationalities other than Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia are not required to do so.
“It’s impossible to give good advice (to workers) as we don’t know the policy, no one does. We just recommend to workers they be careful of corrupt officials who will extort them and avoid believing employers, agents or brokers who promise them a solution to their poor situation as there is currently no policy to help them. If workers had problems they can contact MWRN and we will report to theMyanmar government their problems.”
To end this chaos, MWRN came up with four proposals. 
First, Myanmar workers should be able to renew or extend existing temporary national verification (NV) passports and should not be forced to apply for a permanent Myanmar passport. 
Second, procedures for extension of stay permission beyond four years and passport renewal or extension should be transparent and accessible for employers and migrants to navigate without compulsory use of expensive and unregulated brokers or agents.
Third, Centres for processing visa extensions and passport renewal or extension should open close to migrant populations and not only in risky border areas.
Fourth, no workers whose visas have expired should be fined for overstay caused by the existing migrant stay permission extension policy vacuum.
Fifth, the policy requiring a deposit of Bt1,000 into a deportation fund should be revoked. 
 “Currently procedures for workers to remain in Thailand beyond four years and for issuance, extension or renewal of temporary or permanent passports remain unclear,” it also noted.

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