Interior Minister Sar Kheng has ordered immigration officials to investigate cases of returning migrant workers who were injured overseas, especially cases involving those who worked in Thailand.
Last year, the Foreign Affairs Ministry repatriated about 9,000 migrant workers who were abused by their employers.
Mr Kheng’s order was made during a National Committee for Counter Trafficking at the Interior Ministry Tuesday after he learned that some migrant workers return to the Kingdom injured.
“Whether they were undocumented or not, they were sent home through an international checkpoint disabled. This is an issue that we regret, and is very painful,” Mr Kheng said. “They leave the Kingdom physically able, but when they return, they return with broken legs, broken hands, or injured eyes. So it’s a tragedy that we cannot ignore.”
He added that the government has to investigate the issue because injured returnees pose a burden to their families and the state.
“So, we have to review this issue in order to set up a measure. Or, we can cooperate with the host country to find a resolution,” Mr Kheng said. “We have to ensure that returnees are able to continue with their livelihood, and that they do not entirely burden the government.”
He said that according to a labour agreement with Thailand, migrant workers who have a border pass can go in and out of the country.
Mr Kheng added that immigration authorities must be able to distinguish the difference between documented and undocumented migrant workers, adding that they must also find those responsible for smuggling undocumented workers to work in Thailand.
“Between 50 and 80 people are sent back every day. That’s the reason why we created the migrant worker holding centre in Poipet city – we want to find the people behind human trafficking,” he said. “We also want to help victims of human trafficking.”
Dy Thehoya, programme officer at the Centre for Alliance of Labour and Human Rights, yesterday said he welcomes the government’s concern regarding injured migrant workers.
“The government has to consider human rights abuses in host countries, especially embassy representatives. They must lodge complaints and demand compensation on behalf of the victims,” Mr Thehoya said. “Those who are found guilty of injuring or disabling migrant workers must be penalised.”
“The government needs to have clear policy in rescuing migrant workers and preventing abuse,” he added.
In February, Labour Ministry spokesman Heng Sour said his ministry was planning to reveal new plans to protect migrant workers during its upcoming congress.
However, no further details have been received since the reveal was announced.
Labour Minister Ith Samheng in the past said that currently, 1.2 million Cambodian migrant workers earn money in Thailand, South Korea, Malaysia, Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong.
Mr Samheng said that migrant workers send home $2 billion annually to support their families, noting that the government has been focusing on protecting their rights.
“The government has focused on protecting the rights and benefits of Cambodian workers abroad through the cooperation with host countries and the enforcement of laws and norms by using mechanisms, principles and procedures in accordance with international standards,” he said at the time.
Mr Samheng noted that there were 105 private recruitment agencies licensed by the Labour Ministry to recruit, train, send and manage migrant workers abroad.