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Processing migrants in Thailand

CAMBODIAN migrant workers in Thailand who signed up to participate in a controversial registration scheme implemented earlier this year are now able to complete their applications, and Cambodian officials based in Bangkok have been tasked with facilitating the process, according to a report from the International Organisation for Migration released this week.

The report states that workers who successfully complete the nationality-verification process, wherein workers were to submit documents to their home governments in order to apply for work permits, will be allowed to remain in Thailand for two more years.

Those who failed to meet the March 2 deadline to begin the process – as well as those who were ineligible because they entered Thailand illegally – have been targeted in a recent wave of mass arrests and deportations.

Rights groups have expressed alarm over the crackdown, which stemmed from a June 2 order signed by Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva that called for the establishment of a “special centre to suppress, arrest and prosecute alien workers who are working underground”.

According to statistics from Bangkok-based Human Rights and Development Foundation, 43,301 Cambodian migrant workers missed the deadline.

Claudia Natali, a labour migration programme manager at IOM, said yesterday that the last stage of the nationality-verification process involves the issuance of temporary passports (TPs), or identification cards.

She said it would be made easier with the relevant Cambodian officials in Thailand.

“The last stage involves the presence of officials of the other countries to actually deliver the passport after the verification has taken place,” she said. “In the case of Burmese migrants, they have to go back to their country to collect the TP. For Cambodians, the issuance of identification cards happens in Thailand.”

According to the IOM report, released Tuesday, Cambodian officials began the final phase of the process on April 30, operating out of the Office of Foreign Workers Administration in Bangkok. They are set to relocate on Monday to a separate site in Bangkok.

The final deadline for the completion of the entire nationality-verification process is February 2012.

Since the June 2 Thai government order, at least 1,294 illegal Cambodian migrants have been detained and deported, according to reports from various Thai news agencies.

Natali said these workers would not be given a new chance to apply for the nationality-verification process.

“Migrants who get deported and want to come back to Thailand are supposed to go through the formal [memorandum of understanding] procedure,” she said.

Hem Bunny, director of the Cambodian Labour Ministry’s Employment and Manpower Department, said this procedure required workers to “apply to a company known to the Ministry of Labour, who will train the worker for three months before they are allowed to work abroad”.

“The company then sends documents about the worker to the Foreign Ministry, who then send the documents to the Cambodian embassy in Thailand,” he said.

He added that many migrant workers found such processes unappealing.

“Most residents would rather work illegally because they don’t have to take so much time applying,” he said. “However, it is dangerous, and the government urges them to apply legally because the law can protect them.”



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