Commemorating International Migrants Day yesterday, the government launched its second Labour Migration Policy, outlining new targets to regulate the Kingdom’s migrant workforce, while also noting that more than a third of its first such plan didn’t accomplish much.
Approximately a quarter of Cambodia’s adult population migrates for work, according to government figures. Among the slim but increasing fraction of migrants who travel internationally, the vast majority pass through irregular and poorly monitored channels.
To curb rampant abuses and incentivise migrants to pursue legal routes overseas, the new policy would see employers vetted, consular services expanded to include repatriation funds and the creation of provincial “one-stop centres” where potential migrants could obtain all documents needed to go abroad, according to a copy of the policy.
“If one stop services operate effectively, migrants will not need to wait for their passports to be processed, nor do they need to incur the additional cost of travelling to Phnom Penh,” said Anna Olsen, a technical officer with the International Labour Organisation.
Labour experts were dubious yesterday of how strongly the policy would change the status quo given similar policies’ lack of success in the past. The policy itself acknowledged that 35 per cent of the 79 targets set in the last labour policy were not achieved or progressing. “What we’ve learned from the previous labour policy in 2010 and various prakases is that not much has been implemented,” said Mom Sokchar, migration program manager at Legal Support for Women and Children.
In June, the government responded to a mass influx of undocumented Cambodian workers returning from Thailand by instituting a $49 documentation system for students and workers with invitations from employers.
The government also announced plans to open passport offices in each province, but the Interior Ministry admitted it had neither the equipment nor the personnel for such a plan. Also, labour advocates found that the $49 documents aren’t so cheap in practice.
“The workers are spending the equivalent of 6,000 baht [$180] to get just the passport,” said Moeun Tola, of the Cambodian Legal Education Centre. “They complain about a lot of corruption making it cost more.”