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Hong Kong Groups Condemn Thai Government for Treatment of Migrant Workers

By Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants  •  February 26, 2010

Thailand sets March 31 deadline for verification scheme

HK groups score Thai gov’t for impending crackdown on undocumented workers and refugees

Thailand is set to show its rough treatment of undocumented migrants and refugees. In the guise of a national verification scheme, the government readies the stage for a massive crackdown on undocumented foreign workers and refugees in the country.

This was the warning of Gi Estrada, program coordinator of the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM) as the group and other organizations based in HK such as the International Migrants Alliance and the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body held a protest action at the Royal Thai Consulate to denounce the impending crackdown on undocumented migrant workers and refugees that is expected to start on March 31st, the deadline to submit information under the National Verification Scheme.

“It is a sly scheme to corner undocumented migrants and migrant refugees. The threat of arrest, detention and deportation unjustly criminalizes undocumented foreign workers while forcing refugees such as the Burmese people to submit to registration with the military government of Burma is tantamount to exposing them to further harm,” Estrada added.

Under the scheme, Estrada remarked, over 1.4 million migrant workers whose previous two-year permit has already lapsed could be deported if they do not register. For Burmese workers, however, who comprise 80% of this total, they still need to agree on the scheme on or before February 28 by filling in a consent form.

“As for the rest of the almost one million undocumented migrants and refugees, they will be targeted for arrest and deportation,” he relayed.

The protesters submitted initial signatories collected in their online petition (http://www.PetitionOnline.com/g111257i/petition.htm) put up last Wednesday. To date, more than 100 organizations and individuals from around the world signed the said petition.

In the protest action, Eni Lestari, chairperson of the IMA said that postponing the deadline for registration by a month still means that the crackdown is still imminent.

“The Thai government, like its neighbor Malaysia, is also notorious for cracking down on undocumented migrants as shown by the much publicized treatment of Rohingya refugees who were intercepted by the Thai coastguard a few months back. In the so-called land of smiles, undocumented migrants and refugees are inhumanly treated,” Lestari added.

Estrada also pointed out that the new policy of the Thai Royal Government will violate the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers which the Thai government itself co-signed in 2007, among many other international human rights laws and conventions.

The protesters demanded the following in their submitted petition to Thai authorities in Hong Kong:

  1. That the Thai Royal Government reconsider its decision to pursue the crackdown and instead abide by the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers which includes the following general principles and commitments respectively: (a) The receiving states and the sending states shall, for humanitarian reasons, closely cooperate to resolve the cases of migrant workers who, through no fault of their own, have subsequently become undocumented; and (b) Extend assistance to migrant workers of ASEAN Member Countries who are caught in conflict or crisis situations outside ASEAN in the event of need and based on the capacities and resources of the Embassies and Consular Offices of the relevant ASEAN Member Countries, based on bilateral consultations and arrangements;
  2. That the Thai Royal Government abide by international humanitarian laws and instruments
  3. That the governments of the migrant-sending countries immediately plan for the safety of their respective citizens in Thailand who will be affected should the massive crackdown push through after February 28. Migrant workers returning to their home country must be supported by their respective governments.

“Migrant workers, regardless of their status, have rights that need to be upheld, promoted and protected. They deserve just, fair, equal and human treatment,” Estrada concluded.

See more photos of the protest

For more information:

Gi Estrada, Program Coordinator
Tel.: 97470546

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This post is in: Press Release

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