Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Update on migrant registration in Thailand

My favourite Myanmar Times' journalist Nyan Lynn Aung provides a detailed report on the ever-changing registration situation for migrants in Thailand:
Passport-holding migrant workers in Thailand are furious over a new policy that will see them slide into a legal grey zone, and be levied with a barrage of fees along the way. Over 1 million temporary passport holders will not be allowed to renew their expiring residency documents, issued between 2009 and 2013 as part of a national verification process. Instead, they are being told to forfeit their legal status, and apply for “pink cards” that leave them vulnerable to arrest and deportation.
Thailand began the controversial process on April 1, and will issue the pink cards for 120 days. The temporary passport holders whose documents are set to expire are being lumped in with previously unregularised workers who applied for pink cards during a post-coup amnesty period in 2014. Pink cards issued after the amnesty expired on March 31 and need to be renewed. The new pink cards will be valid for two years. The authorities hope that by then Myanmar and Thailand will have reached a longer-term solution that has so far eluded them. Rights groups have criticised the process as an erosion of Thailand’s migration policy, effectively deregularising a large swath of the workforce and stripping them of social protections they were previously eligible for, including social security and pensions. Without any systematic announcement or transparent guidelines on the new policy, Myanmar migrant workers in Thailand told The Myanmar Times they were confused about how to maintain their legal employment. Ko Kyaw Zay Win, a temporary passport holder at the World Knitting dye factory in Mahachai, Samut Sakhon, said he is unsure what to do with his documents and whether he needs to register for a pink card. He has worked in Thailand for six years, and said his temporary passport and visa remain valid for over a year. “I have not applied to change to a pink card because my passport is still valid, and I don’t want to waste the remaining duration,” he said. He added that if he obtained a pink card it would also come with a raft of restrictions on his movement and employment, and prevent him from visiting his home and collecting social welfare. According to the Thai government, the pink-card holders cannot travel outside their province of registration for more than seven days, and employers must sign off on any travel stints. The workers will also not be permitted to return to their country of origin. Ko Aung Ko Min, a worker from Plango Venily factory at Samphram township in Nakhon Pathom province, said the factory owner applied for a pink-card on his behalf, without warning him. The owner said he would only employ pink card holders, and Ko Aung Ko Min said he doesn’t see any alternative to forfeiting his passport and accepting the semi-legal status. “If I try to shift to a different factory it would take at least half a month or even a whole month to find work. And that would not be a good situation for me,” he said. U Aung Kyaw, from the Migrant Workers Right Network, said the organisation has tried – to no avail – to clarify details about the new scheme, including who is supposed to be registering. “We met with Thai authorities on March 31 to ask about the latest registration scheme, but we have not gotten any response to our questions yet,” he said. “The Thai government said to wait until after water festival ends on April 19, and then they will have good news for us.” Ma Mya Khoar Nyo, a worker from the TEL garment factory in Sampharm who has been in Thailand for eight years, said she is reluctant to give up her passport, even it means being undocumented after it expires. “I will continue to hold my temporary passport because I hope that the Thai policy on migration might soon change due to agreements with Myanmar’s new government,” she said. “I will wait until that time, since it is the only way for me to go back and visit my home.”
"New migrant policy mired in confusion, scepticism," The Myanmar Times, 5 April 2016

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