Monday, 1 August 2016

On Thailand's migrant "pink card" crackdown

"With the deadline to register for temporary work permits swiftly approaching, migrant workers in Thailand say they are being subjected to a rash of police raids.  Undocumented workers from Myanmar – as well as Laos and Cambodia – have been told they must register for the work permits by July 29, or face deportation. The pink cards allow the workers a two-year reprieve, a window during which their home countries are tasked with verifying nationality and providing longer-term documents, such as passports.  The scheme has been favoured by Thailand’s military junta, and was first rolled out in 2014 in a stated effort to curb human trafficking. But the current iteration differs by requiring Myanmar nationals with temporary passports set to expire to also register.  Workers dislike the program as it leaves them vulnerable to arrest or, more frequently, police round-ups where they are forced to pay a bribe. 
Ko Kyaw Zay Win, a worker at the World Knitting dye factory in Mahachai, also known colloquially as “little Myanmar”, said the police round-ups are targeting workers who have switched factories and are now working for a different employer than pegged on the permit.  “This is the effect of the registration deadline,” he said. “Thai authorities always do that kind of arrest when the registration deadline is nearby.”  According to Thai-based migrant affairs organisations, part of the problem lies with restriction related to the permit – it ties the workers to a single employer written on the card. Changing the designated employer requires returning to one-stop service centres and furbishing permission from the initial employer as well as proof of a job with the new one. The maze-like process serves as such a hindrance to workers and employers that most do not attempt it.  In a July 11 statement, Thai labour officials urged workers who have not yet registered for their pink cards to quickly enroll, or they would face harsh repercussions, as the deadline will not be extended again.  Thai authorities said that just 100,000 Myanmar migrant workers have so far registered for the pink cards, far short of the 300,000 target.  U Sein Htay, chair of the Mahachai-based Migrant Workers Rights Network, said fresh raids are also likely after the deadline in order to crack down on workers who switch factories without updating their documents.  The Thai employment department warned earlier this month that after the deadline, authorities will be conducting factory-floor scrutiny to ensure all foreign labourers are properly registered. Rights workers accuse the process of functioning like a scam, where workers are faced with ever-changing deadlines, and document requirements, but are kept poorly informed of the changes. Then authorities conduct raids and ping workers and employers with fines.  “Even though some factory owners are willing to help workers with employer name changes, the process is quite complicated,” said U Sein Htay. “So that means when the police do raids, there are many vulnerable to arrest.”  Ko Aung Kyaw, a worker from Nga Mae Lone freeze factory, estimates nearly 300 Myanmar workers in southern Thai are facing problems with the inscrutable system, and feel they have to hide when Thai authorities come by.  “In such cases, it is luckier to be sent back to the homeland than to be sent to jail,” he said.
"Workers fear police raids, as pink card deadline looms," Myanmar Times, 22 July 2016

No comments:

Post a Comment