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Cost, time largest factors in illegal migration: UN

People stand in queue at the Poipet immigration checkpoint at the Cambodian-Thai border in Banteay Meanchey in 2014.
People stand in queue at the Poipet immigration checkpoint at the Cambodian-Thai border in Banteay Meanchey in 2014. Hong Menea

Cost, time largest factors in illegal migration: UN

Costly and time-intensive procedures to migrate legally are driving Cambodians to seek work elsewhere illegally, according to a United Nations trafficking report released yesterday.

The UN’s Office on Drugs and Crime report Trafficking in persons from Cambodia, Lao PDR and Myanmar to Thailand argues that the main reason for hundreds of thousands of Cambodians to take the undocumented route north to Thailand is the lengthy and costly procedure for getting passports, work permits and other permissions. Taking an irregular path, meanwhile, costs a fraction of the money and time.

“[Irregular] migration is more readily available, more flexible, faster and less expensive for prospective migrants,” the authors write.

They say estimates of legal costs range between $600 and $750, while irregular migration only costs approximately about $75 to $90. It also takes on average three to six months to get passports and work permits.

According to UNODC, Cambodian men are more likely to be deceived, exploited and trafficked than women, which they attribute to the fact that men are more likely to use brokers.

Counterintuitively, women in receiving countries having greater access to opportunity may contribute to trafficking, the report found.

Read more: Migrant workers' stories from the Thai border out a crisis in focus

In Thailand, higher education standards in general – but particularly among women – have created a shift towards office-based and high-tech industries, leaving many jobs to be filled by migrant workers who are willing to work for lower salaries than locals.

Lim Tith, National Project Coordinator at the United Nation’s Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking, said more resources were needed for Cambodia to implement an anti-trafficking policy. To protect victims of trafficking, shelters for victims need to be built by the government, not provided by NGOs as they currently are. “They are planning it, but it needs to be actually done,” he said.

Barry Jessen, senior project manager at Samaritan’s Purse, said the Cambodian government had to increase the availability of passports to people in Thailand and Cambodia. “This would significantly reduce trafficking,” he said.

Jessen suggested establishing mobile passport trucks that would be based in a commune for one day to return with the passports a week later. This, he said, would make it easier for people in rural areas to get passports. “The technology is available now,” he said.

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