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Nationality Verification deadline passes; deportations begin

By Burma Partnership  •  March 5, 2010

Days after the 2 March deadline for registering intent to complete the Nationality Verification process, Thai authorities are already scaling up deportations of migrant workers.

According to a spokesperson from Yaung Chi Oo Workers Association (YCOWA), there has been a sudden spike in the detention and deportation of migrants today in the Thai-Burma border town of Mae Sot. Burmese migrant workers were arrested on the way to work this morning, brought to the detention center, and then deported to Burma. YCOWA has also received reports that authorities plan to check work permits and Nationality Verification documents in the factories.

This is only the beginning of a process in which more than 500,000 migrants may be deported. Of the approximately 1.3 million registered migrants eligible for the nationality verification process, only 850,000 met the preliminary deadline, leaving almost 500,000 extremely vulnerable to arrest and deportation. According to the Migrant Justice Program, if one adds undocumented migrants to that number, up to 1.5 million migrants could be deported by Thai authorities. These deportations may be accelerated in the coming days, and more are expected after the passing of the final 31 March deadline for completion of the process.

For those not complying with the complex process, the Employment Department’s deputy director-general, Supat Gukun, has said, “We will not be lenient.”In an interview with the Nation, Supat added that the process is not complicated, and “for extra convenience,” employers can hire private companies to help in the process. In reality, most migrant workers receive no assistance from their employers, and many migrants cannot afford to complete the process on their own. This is in addition to the concerns of many migrants as to what this process means for their safety, as many of them have left Burma because of ethnic and political persecution and other forms of human rights abuses including forced labor.

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