Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Legal immigration has downside, too: report

Legal immigration has downside, too: report

Cambodian migrants are transported across the Thai-Cambodian border by Thai authorities to the town of Poipet in June of 2014.
Cambodian migrants are transported across the Thai-Cambodian border by Thai authorities to the town of Poipet in June of 2014. Hong Menea

Legal immigration has downside, too: report

A new report in the journal Migration Studies casts doubt on whether legal emigration is a boon for development in Cambodia, and whether it benefits the Kingdom’s workers.

Experts have long noted that emigration tends to increase as a country develops. In the case of Cambodia, migration shot up over the past decade alongside economic growth. An estimated 1 million Cambodians were based overseas in 2013, the majority in Thailand.

Meanwhile, there is considerable optimism that overseas migration helps boost development and reduce poverty, the study’s author notes. Along with this optimism is an assumption that legal migration is always preferable.

But research by Maryann Bylander, of Lewis and Clark University, shows that legal migration is usually only available to workers who are already better off in relative terms, a fact that minimises migration’s ability to reduce poverty.

Increasing barriers to irregular migration might make it difficult for poor Cambodians to seek opportunities, Bylander determined.

“Scholars and policy-makers who stress the importance of creating opportunities for regular, legal, migration may be advocating for opportunities that are inherently less accessible to those currently engaging in migration,” she wrote. “Increased moves to manage/regulate migration may unwittingly constrain mobility options for the poor.”

After examining data on workers moving to Thailand and Malaysia, Bylander noted that Cambodians migrating to Thailand are often from marginalised households, and usually emigrate without documents. Meanwhile, those heading to Malaysia generally have the economic and social capital to pay recruiters, and opt to obtain the necessary permits.

While the latter may seem preferable, that isn’t always the case, Bylander writes. For example, legal migration isn’t always safer. Legal status can sometimes bind workers to unscrupulous employers, leaving them vulnerable to abuse.

In Malaysia, where the majority of Cambodian migrants are women employed as domestic workers, numerous cases of abuse and exploitation have been documented.

But according to William Conklin, of NGO Solidarity Center, both irregular and regular migrants face a surfeit of obstacles. “To be able to afford to be sent to Malaysia requires money; you need to pay recruiters.

“So those workers are accruing debt,” he noted. “But if they are working in a construction site in Thailand, are . . . international standards being adhered to? In both countries, workers are at risk.”

MOST VIEWED

  • NagaWorld casinos set to reopen, schools to follow

    NAGACORP Ltd has requested that it be allowed to reopen its NagaWorld integrated resorts in Phnom Penh after the government recently approved casinos to operate again, provided they follow Covid-19 prevention measures set by the Ministry of Health. Mey Vann, the director-general of the Ministry

  • Cambodia armed with money laundering laws

    Money laundering will now carry a penalty of up to five years in prison while those convicted of financing terrorists will be jailed for up to 20 years, according to new laws promulgated by King Norodom Sihamoni and seen by The Post on Thursday. Comprising nine

  • Schools to be reopened in ‘three stages’

    With guidance from Prime Minister Hun Sen, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, is in the process of reopening schools in three stages. But no timeline has been set, ministry spokesperson Ros Soveacha said on Thursday. Soveacha said the first stage will be to

  • Thai border crossings eased

    The Cambodian Embassy in Thailand said in an announcement on Wednesday that Thailand’s government has allowed certain passengers from several countries to enter its borders. The visitors must go back to their country immediately after their duties in Thailand are fulfilled, the embassy said.

  • Gov’t says tourism recovers slightly despite pandemic

    The Ministry of Tourism and the Phnom Penh municipal administration have recognised 33 tourism businesses in the capital which have consistently implemented safety measures for tourists and adhered to the code of conduct issued by the ministry. Recently, the ministry announced that tourism businesses had to

  • Mull ASEAN border opening, PM urges

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that ASEAN launch a scenario for gradually reopening cross-border travel and trade between countries in the region. He said ASEAN has had more success combating Covid-19 compared to other regions. The prime minister’s request was made at the

  • Ministry reports 11 new Covid-19 cases, reiterates vigilance

    Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng has urged people to continue practising virus prevention techniques after 11 people tested positive for Covid-19 within two days after arriving in the Kingdom. Speaking on Sunday, Bun Heng stressed the importance of washing hands, wearing masks or scarves when

  • Koh Rong land ‘belongs to firm’

    Preah Sihanouk Provincial Administration spokesperson Kheang Phearum told The Post on Sunday that the 35ha being bulldozed by Royal Group Co Ltd in Koh Rong belongs to it after it was leased to it for 99 years by the government in 2008. Phearum said the land does

  • Nine on Indonesia flight Covid-19 positive

    The Ministry of Health on Saturday confirmed nine more imported cases of Covid-19. The nine ‒ eight Cambodians and one Indonesian, aged 22 to 26 ‒ arrived in Cambodia on Thursday via a direct flight from Indonesia and are receiving treatment at the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hostipal in Phnom Penh.

  • Kingdom’s financial sector healthy

    Cambodia's financial sector remains on a sustainable growth path despite the Covid-19 pandemic squeezing crucial industries, National Bank of Cambodia (NBC) governor Chea Chanto said. Tourism, garments and footwear have borne the brunt of the Covid-19 impact, he said, whereas the financial and agriculture sectors