Thailand keen to register illegal migrant workers on time

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Migrant fishery workers in Samut Sakhon with their new registry documents – All pictures © Arno Maierbrugger

The Thai government is eager to have around two million illegal migrant workers, most of them from Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, registered by a deadline of the end of this March before European Commission inspectors arrive on April 4 to check whether the EU should impose economic sanctions on Thailand due to cases of exploitation, underage and forced labour of unregistered workers.

Currently, there are an estimated 3.8 million migrant workers in Thailand, mainly in the fishing and food processing sectors, in construction and agriculture, doing low-paid manual jobs that most Thais are not very keen to put their hands on, labelled by Thailand’s authorities as “Dirty, Dangerous, Difficult,” or “3D jobs.”

Following pressure from the EU to get labour conditions for migrant workers in order, the Thai government has set up 80 so-called One Stop Service centers all over the country as one-day registration facilities to provide proper visas, work permits and ID cards, as well as health checks for the workers.

“We, and particularly Thai companies employing foreign workers, don’t want to have these issues with human trafficking and exploitation anymore,” says Anusari Thapsuwan, spokesperson of the Minister of Social Development and Human Security.

“Instead, we want them to work legally, and we will leave no one behind,” she adds.

This is an important remark since the Thai government just recently enacted a new law that threatens fines and even jail time for those who did not go through the proper paperwork. The crackdown is clearly aimed at silencing international criticism over Thailand’s poor labour market record in low-paid manual jobs.

However, the law also includes stiff fines and prison terms for employers who illegally hire migrant workers, which is why companies are anxiously keen to send their foreign staff to register.

Fishery industry most impacted: Site visit in Samut Sakhon

Investvine made a site visit in Samut Sakhon, a province southwest of Bangkok known for its busy fishery industry. There, the Thai government operates one of the largest One Stop Shops for migrant worker registration in a public hospital.

According to Sombat Nivesrat, deputy director-general of the employment department in the Thai Ministry of Labour, around 140,000 migrant workers have been registered here over the past months and have been equipped with proper paperwork and health-checked.

“We acknowledge that there is a problem with human trafficking and labour conditions for the large number of unskilled foreign workers, and we have been trying to tackle the problem over the past 20 years,” Sombat says.

“Now, with the support of the governments in Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and also Vietnam, as well as through government promotions and information campaigns in factories and from employers, we want to provide a smooth registration process,” he adds.

Apart from receiving ID cards, visas and work permits, which allows them to stay and work in Thailand legally for four years at a time, migrant workers are also entering Thailand’s social security and health insurance system, provided they can produce a passport issued by their home country and get their nationality verified. To that end, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos have set up nationality verification centers in Thailand to expedite the process.

Iris scan for foreign fishery workers

Workers in the fisheries and seafood processing industry additionally need to undergo an iris scan to ensure accuracy of their identity for further inspection at sea. All workers are further tested on communicable diseases such as influenza, tuberculosis, syphilis and HIV and provided treatment if necessary, Sombat says.

As of February 2018, more than 1.1 million migrant workers have already been processed. Once registered, they are legally entitled to receive the daily minimum wage in their respective industries. To ensure that they are paid accordingly, employers are legally bound to transfer salaries electronically to bank accounts to allow spot checks by the Ministry of Labour, according to Sombat.

As additional services, the Thai government has also set up migrant worker assistance centers in ten provinces to provide interpreters and information on workers’ rights and employment regulations, as well as post-arrival and reintegration centers, a labour hotline and information portal on the Internet in six languages, Thai, English, Burmese, Lao, Cambodian and Vietnamese.

Private firms welcome registration

Investvine visited three private companies at least half of whose staff comprises of foreign workers.

Anusorn Mahachai Surimi Group, a major seafood processing company in Samut Sakhon, which employs 220 Myanmar and seven Laotian workers out of a total staff 334, is advocating the registration process because it “gives workers more freedom and peace of mind,” as CEO Aphichai Techanitisawad puts it.

“Working illegalyl is bad for them,” he says, “and registering is good because they get a basic salary and social benefits.”

For Anusorn Group, the registering process has resulted in one-time costs of “four to five per cent” of their annual profit, and they had to hire five people to handle it, but Aphichai says it was worth it.

“We hope for a green card from the EU, since this is the best for our business,” Aphichai said.

Another company, Kasemchai Farm Group in Nakhon Pathom province, which produces chicken and duck eggs and employs 444 Myanmar workers out of a total staff of 935, also says it was in full compliance with the labour registration regulations and is actively assisting its foreign staff to get their paperwork done.

“We found that after registration, our foreign workers are much happier and more relieved, which makes them also more motivated,” a company representative tells Investvine.

KP Food Company Limited in Nakhon Chaisri, whose 89 foreign workers are from Cambodia, also feels that the registration process is a positive thing, particularly for long-term employees, even though it resulted in a temporary shortage of staff, when they were absent to register.

“Their legal status gets improved and with it their work safety, social protection and welfare,” says KP Food managing director Khwanchit Yangyuen.

One Stop Service center for migrant worker registration in Samut Sakhon
Migrant workers awaiting document processing
Health check
Fishing boats in Samut Sakhon
Daily routine of fishermen

Myanmar migrant worker in Samut Sakhon
Fish end up in cans at Anusorn Group
Migrant workers at Anusorn Group talk about their registration experience
Workers’ accommodation at Anusorn Group
Migrant workers at Kasemchai Farm Group
Migrant workers at KP Food
Done!
Cambodian worker at KP Food
Workers’ accommodation at KP Food
Waiting for the night shift

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

Migrant fishery workers in Samut Sakhon with their new registry documents – All pictures © Arno Maierbrugger

The Thai government is eager to have around two million illegal migrant workers, most of them from Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, registered by a deadline of the end of this March before European Commission inspectors arrive on April 4 to check whether the EU should impose economic sanctions on Thailand due to cases of exploitation, underage and forced labour of unregistered workers.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Migrant fishery workers in Samut Sakhon with their new registry documents – All pictures © Arno Maierbrugger

The Thai government is eager to have around two million illegal migrant workers, most of them from Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, registered by a deadline of the end of this March before European Commission inspectors arrive on April 4 to check whether the EU should impose economic sanctions on Thailand due to cases of exploitation, underage and forced labour of unregistered workers.

Currently, there are an estimated 3.8 million migrant workers in Thailand, mainly in the fishing and food processing sectors, in construction and agriculture, doing low-paid manual jobs that most Thais are not very keen to put their hands on, labelled by Thailand’s authorities as “Dirty, Dangerous, Difficult,” or “3D jobs.”

Following pressure from the EU to get labour conditions for migrant workers in order, the Thai government has set up 80 so-called One Stop Service centers all over the country as one-day registration facilities to provide proper visas, work permits and ID cards, as well as health checks for the workers.

“We, and particularly Thai companies employing foreign workers, don’t want to have these issues with human trafficking and exploitation anymore,” says Anusari Thapsuwan, spokesperson of the Minister of Social Development and Human Security.

“Instead, we want them to work legally, and we will leave no one behind,” she adds.

This is an important remark since the Thai government just recently enacted a new law that threatens fines and even jail time for those who did not go through the proper paperwork. The crackdown is clearly aimed at silencing international criticism over Thailand’s poor labour market record in low-paid manual jobs.

However, the law also includes stiff fines and prison terms for employers who illegally hire migrant workers, which is why companies are anxiously keen to send their foreign staff to register.

Fishery industry most impacted: Site visit in Samut Sakhon

Investvine made a site visit in Samut Sakhon, a province southwest of Bangkok known for its busy fishery industry. There, the Thai government operates one of the largest One Stop Shops for migrant worker registration in a public hospital.

According to Sombat Nivesrat, deputy director-general of the employment department in the Thai Ministry of Labour, around 140,000 migrant workers have been registered here over the past months and have been equipped with proper paperwork and health-checked.

“We acknowledge that there is a problem with human trafficking and labour conditions for the large number of unskilled foreign workers, and we have been trying to tackle the problem over the past 20 years,” Sombat says.

“Now, with the support of the governments in Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and also Vietnam, as well as through government promotions and information campaigns in factories and from employers, we want to provide a smooth registration process,” he adds.

Apart from receiving ID cards, visas and work permits, which allows them to stay and work in Thailand legally for four years at a time, migrant workers are also entering Thailand’s social security and health insurance system, provided they can produce a passport issued by their home country and get their nationality verified. To that end, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos have set up nationality verification centers in Thailand to expedite the process.

Iris scan for foreign fishery workers

Workers in the fisheries and seafood processing industry additionally need to undergo an iris scan to ensure accuracy of their identity for further inspection at sea. All workers are further tested on communicable diseases such as influenza, tuberculosis, syphilis and HIV and provided treatment if necessary, Sombat says.

As of February 2018, more than 1.1 million migrant workers have already been processed. Once registered, they are legally entitled to receive the daily minimum wage in their respective industries. To ensure that they are paid accordingly, employers are legally bound to transfer salaries electronically to bank accounts to allow spot checks by the Ministry of Labour, according to Sombat.

As additional services, the Thai government has also set up migrant worker assistance centers in ten provinces to provide interpreters and information on workers’ rights and employment regulations, as well as post-arrival and reintegration centers, a labour hotline and information portal on the Internet in six languages, Thai, English, Burmese, Lao, Cambodian and Vietnamese.

Private firms welcome registration

Investvine visited three private companies at least half of whose staff comprises of foreign workers.

Anusorn Mahachai Surimi Group, a major seafood processing company in Samut Sakhon, which employs 220 Myanmar and seven Laotian workers out of a total staff 334, is advocating the registration process because it “gives workers more freedom and peace of mind,” as CEO Aphichai Techanitisawad puts it.

“Working illegalyl is bad for them,” he says, “and registering is good because they get a basic salary and social benefits.”

For Anusorn Group, the registering process has resulted in one-time costs of “four to five per cent” of their annual profit, and they had to hire five people to handle it, but Aphichai says it was worth it.

“We hope for a green card from the EU, since this is the best for our business,” Aphichai said.

Another company, Kasemchai Farm Group in Nakhon Pathom province, which produces chicken and duck eggs and employs 444 Myanmar workers out of a total staff of 935, also says it was in full compliance with the labour registration regulations and is actively assisting its foreign staff to get their paperwork done.

“We found that after registration, our foreign workers are much happier and more relieved, which makes them also more motivated,” a company representative tells Investvine.

KP Food Company Limited in Nakhon Chaisri, whose 89 foreign workers are from Cambodia, also feels that the registration process is a positive thing, particularly for long-term employees, even though it resulted in a temporary shortage of staff, when they were absent to register.

“Their legal status gets improved and with it their work safety, social protection and welfare,” says KP Food managing director Khwanchit Yangyuen.

One Stop Service center for migrant worker registration in Samut Sakhon
Migrant workers awaiting document processing
Health check
Fishing boats in Samut Sakhon
Daily routine of fishermen

Myanmar migrant worker in Samut Sakhon
Fish end up in cans at Anusorn Group
Migrant workers at Anusorn Group talk about their registration experience
Workers’ accommodation at Anusorn Group
Migrant workers at Kasemchai Farm Group
Migrant workers at KP Food
Done!
Cambodian worker at KP Food
Workers’ accommodation at KP Food
Waiting for the night shift

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