The Cambodian embassy in Thailand has issued an urgent call for illegal migrant workers to apply for legal documentation before the end of the month, when a deadline kicks in and Thai authorities will again begin deporting paperless workers.
The Cambodian embassy released a statement last week saying that One Stop Service centres in Thailand will cease processing documents on June 30.
The statement said that all workers who have not yet come to identify themselves, ask for visas or labour cards should be in a hurry to do so.
It added that Thai authorities will be implementing their new law on foreign workers management, which does not allow foreign workers in Thailand to work without legal documents, come July 1.
“OSS of Thailand will be closed on June 30 without any delay, so illegal Cambodian workers working in Thailand without legal documents [after that], please come to contact the embassy and ask for laissez passers to come back home and prepare documents and return to Thailand for working via the MoU,” the statement said.
Labour Minister Ith Samheng was in Thailand last week to oversee the progress of legalising the workers and met with his Thai counterpart Adul Saengsiew Kaew.
Mr Samheng said that Cambodian officials in Thailand have managed to distribute legal documentation to 420,000 undocumented migrant workers, leaving only about 10,000 left to receive legal paperwork before the June 30 deadline.
Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour yesterday said that about 5,000 workers remain undocumented.
Bou Baraing, who lives in Banteay Meanchey province’s Poipet city, said he was arrested and sent back to the province in 2017 for working illegally and now he is preparing documents to return to Thailand.
“I will return to Thailand soon after preparing all documents. I cannot go back now because I am afraid of being arrested,” Mr Baraing said.
Thailand cracked down on illegal migrant workers last year, leading to a labour exodus that resulted in both governments coming to an agreement to issue legal paperwork to workers as they continued to work.
About 300 Cambodian officials were then sent to Thailand to aid migrant workers with the paperwork.
Dy The Hoya, a program officer at labour rights group Central, said the Labour Ministry has not released updated numbers for Cambodian workers who have not yet received their legal documents.
“I hope that Thai authorities will not force them to get out by arresting them like in the past. They should allow them to come back home and prepare documents and then let them go back to Thailand via private companies or the MoU,” Mr The Hoya said.
He said that Thailand should extend processing of the documents for a few more months so that all undocumented workers were legalised.
“We hope that the Thai side will extend the window by two or three more months for them to do it,” he said.
The Thai government has already extended the window multiple times, however.
Thai authorities deported more than 13,000 Cambodian migrant workers last year, according to a report from the National Police issued in February.
All the deportees had overstayed their visas or crossed the border illegally. Some of them said they had been cheated by recruitment agents who promised them work in Thailand.