Category Archives: Other Migration Issues in Mekong
RANGOON-A leading migrant rights activist said 10 percent of Burma’s labor force currently works abroad as laborers, adding that there is an urgent need to improve the Burmese government’s migration policies so that it can better regulate migrant labor and protect workers.Andy Hall, a British migrant labor expert at Bangkok’s Mahidol University, said reducing violations of migrant’s rights should be a major government priority as so many of the country’s 60 million people work abroad.
“It’s a big issue for Myanmar, 10 percent of the workers are overseas; 10 percent of Myanmar’s population is huge. But the capacity of the government to manage those [migrant flows] is very constrained,” he said.
“I think the government is giving increased effort towards improving the management of migration, but there is still a long way to go,” he added.
Hall was speaking on the sidelines of an EU-funded workshop in Rangoon on Friday, where officials of the Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Security met with UN agencies, the International Labor Organization, migrant advocates and migrant laborers.
Hall said the two-day event was meant to inform the ministry as it seeks to develop new migrant labor policies and management, and build up the knowledge levels of its staff.
“It’s also very important that the government works with the workers, the workers are key. If they don’t agree then you can’t have a migration policy,” he said.
Deputy Director-General Myo Aung from the ministry’s labor department acknowledged in an interview that the government’s capacity to regulate the massive flows of migrant labor and to advocate for the rights of millions of workers abroad was limited.
“We need more human resources and skills in order to have better policies and laws in our department,” he said, adding that the Thai government should do more to help to protect the Burmese workers there.
Myo Aung said there were “a lot of abuses” of workers in Thailand. “To bring dignity to Burmese people who are in Thailand, I think they should give them one-year work permits,” he added.
There are believed to be between 2 and 3 million Burmese migrants in Thailand and many of them are unregistered workers, making them vulnerable to abuse by unscrupulous Thai employers. A smaller number of Burmese work in countries such as Singapore and Malaysia.
Thailand and Burma have been trying to reach a bilateral agreement over how these millions of migrants can be officially registered and given Burmese identity papers and Thai working permits. Burma has requested more time to issue identity paper to its workers, but Thailand has been reluctant to do so.
The so-called Nationality Verification process has also been plagued by bureaucratic problems and accusations that it requires workers to pay bribes to corrupt officials, pushing them further into debt bondage with their employers.
After decades of economic stagnation under military rule Burma offers limited employment opportunities and many Burmese migrate to Thailand via unofficial channels to perform cheap labor in the Thai fishery, garment and construction industries, or to work as domestic servants.
By Lawi Weng
Published on 15 March 2013
A medical expert has urged the government to expand health care schemes to include migrant workers.The aim would be to ease the financial burden on hospitals which have to provide treatment for them.
Phusit Prakongsai, director of the International Health Policy Programme Thailand, said that about 4 million migrant workers, both legal and illegal are living in Thailand.
It is estimated that this number will rise to 5 million after the Asean Economic Community begins in 2015.
The existing health care schemes only cover Thailand’s 65 million citizens.
Dr Phusit said many hospitals are under financial strain, especially where there are high concentrations of migrant workers. He said these hospitals meet the cost of treating the workers because they are morally obliged to do so.
The doctor said Samut Sakhon Hospital overspends by 30 million baht a year to support both legal and illegal migrant workers in the fishing industry who cannot pay for treatment.
Umphang Hospital in Tak province, has reported a yearly deficit of 28-million-baht. There is also a shortage of medical staff in these hospitals when compared with the number of patients, both Thai and foreigners.
Last week, the National Health Personnel Committee of the National Health Commission agreed with Dr Phusit who is also secretary of a sub-committee implementing the World Health Organisation’s Global Code of Practice on International Recruitment of Health Personnel. The commission is set to discuss Dr Phusit’s proposal with the Public Health Ministry early next month. Dr Phusit said if the health care schemes were expanded, it would help public health authorities accurately allocate budgets.
By Paritta Wangkiat
Published on 15 November 2012
Labor export brokerage: relentless ‘octopus tentacles’
Many labor export brokers have devised cunning, elaborate schemes to get whopping sums of money from those who dream of changing their lives by working abroad.
According to the latest statistics, up to 22,000 Vietnamese workers are staying and working illegally in South Korea, the highest percentage among the 15 countries which send their workers to this country. This rate is escalating by 57 % per month.
This situation caused the Korean Ministry of Labor and companies located there to stop recruiting Vietnamese workers earlier this month.
South Korea is the biggest market for Vietnamese workers, currently with around 70,000 Vietnamese working there, sending home a total of approximately one billion US dollars in remittances every year.
One of the main reasons for their illegal stays is that these migrant workers had to pay illegal, whopping sums of money to intermediaries in collusion with employment providers.
According to www.dbpia.co.kr, out of the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers flocking to South Korea, many have been deported by Korean authorities. Distressed from the prospect of being sent home, some have even committed suicide, while others desperately try to elude deportation and having to pay the huge loans they borrowed to land a job in Korea.
The agreement signed between Vietnamese authorities and Korea’s Employment Permit System (EPS) stipulates that migrant workers only have to pay a total of $US 630 in Vietnam and $US 400 for insurance when they arrive in Korea.
However, in reality, they have to pay from $US 5,000 to 10,000 each, or sometimes even more.
According to Bui Si Loi, deputy head of the National Assembly’s Committee of Social Issues in late 2010, from July 2007 to June 2009, the Ministry of Public Security handled up to 137 cases on labor export fraud and prosecuted 186 people.
The ‘casualties’ totaled 5,490 people and the money lost to brokers and employment companies was worth VND 37.7 bil ($US 1.83 mil).
Long-standing secret collusion is a known ongoing issue between brokers and employment providing companies.
“I can say for sure that every labor export company is in cahoots with go-betweens. It is a symbiotic relationship from which both sides benefit hugely,” said a 20 year veteran in labor export who has recently resigned from a high-ranking post at a labor export company belonging to the Ministry of Transport.
According to H.V., a broker who boasted of cooperating with dozens of firms, companies in northern Vietnam demand large sums from the potential guest workers and pay brokers more while their southern counterparts are more ‘discreet’ and pay brokers less.
At his company in southern Long An province, dozens of people are taking ‘training’ classes, ready to work abroad at any time.
Brokers are ‘assigned’ by the labor export companies to require illegal sums from workers, ranging from hundreds of US dollars each for less promising work markets such as Malaysia and the Middle East to $US 500-1,500 each for high-salary markets such as Japan and South Korea, V. added.
Unlike V., P. from northern Binh Dinh province focuses on the Japanese market, as it is safer and earns him more money.
“When the Ministry set a quota on the Korean market for each province, all I had to do was maintain a ‘special relationship’ with the Ministry’s Department of Overseas Labour (Dolab) and Overseas Work Center (OWC),” said P., who used to hold a leading position at the province’s Department of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs.
In 2007, the Ministry stopped distributing quotas to provinces and handed the task over to the OWC, taking a huge slice of the pie from provincial labor officials and employment companies. Many of these officials resigned and became go-betweens as a result.
Among the intermediaries at central Ha Tinh province’s Ky Anh commune, Pham Luan, who used to be a migrant worker himself, is the most trustworthy.
Luan’s company currently provides near-shore fishing workers to Korean companies, in addition to the occasional Taiwanese or Japanese business.
According to Tuoi Tre reporters, a recent case occurred in which a worker, frustrated that he had to pay $US 10,000 to a broker for a near-shore fishing job in South Korea, was rejected earlier last month by the company on the grounds that they had not received enough money from the broker.
For his part, H.V. said he collected $US 7,500 from 10 workers targeted for the Japanese market and got a share of $US 500 for each.
Meanwhile, P. can guarantee success with illegal sums from VND 15 mil ($US 729) to VND 40 mil ($US 1,945) each.
According to an official from Dolab, there are two types of brokers.
The first type is not very certain about the chance of successfully finding a job and pays back the sums they collect to the workers.
The other is ‘experts’, and most brokers in labor export belong to this category. They can easily manipulate the system and send workers who fail to meet the recruiters’ requirements to their dream destinations.
P. said that Japanese companies recruit workers through three methods: directly, online and deputizing to the Vietnamese employment providers.
Brokers and Vietnamese labor providers slyly manipulate even the most difficult mode – Japanese representatives directly interviewing the candidates – by paying interpreters and having them say what the recruiters need.
As for interviewing online with a webcam, they also outwit recruiters by having one man sit out of the webcam’s view and show the candidates what to say.
Deputizing recruitment to Vietnamese labor providers is the easiest way to circumvent regulations, as workers who have paid the illegal sums are all guaranteed acceptance.
“I only worked out these three ways after almost 20 years in the business. Other brokers are also aware of them but keep them secret,” P. said.
Apart from the evil alliance between brokers and labor providers, many providers even transfer their legal status to Taiwanese or Macanese intermediary companies, or lease permits to them, enabling them to freely maneouver and prey on the workers.
Tempted by the easily-earned money, a number of officials from OWC have also jumped in, with many of them being arrested and prosecuted for their wrongdoings and malpractice related to money or language tests designed to standardize the workers.
According to the National Assembly’s supervision team, broker services are rampant as they can make use of loopholes in state management on labor export.
Limited disclosure of information regarding labor export quotas and recruitment standards, which hugely benefits a group of people, is another major cause.
A retired director of a state-owned labor exporter pointed out that though working abroad appeals to fewer people today than in its heyday, which spanned from 1990 to 2005, people are still kept in the dark about labor export standards and issues.
He cited the Malaysian market as an example. Though few apply to work in this country, people still have to pay illegal sums to land a job there.
Meanwhile, Nguyen Dang Duong, head of the Nghe An Department of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs’ Salary division, attributed this plague to the fact that workers wish to get a job and reach their destination quickly and skip learning the language of their new country, as well as other skills.
Several labor export companies also complained that complicated paperwork, particularly obtaining permits from central to local levels during recruitment is also a serious grievance.
In addition, they also have to pay the so-called ‘supply’ fees, which vary at different governmental levels.
“So it’s best to work with brokers. It’s much more convenient, time saving and highly profitable,” the director of a labor export company concluded.
By Tuoi Tre News
Published on 24 October 2012
Asean urged to exchange health records of all migrant workers
Health advocates have urged Asean governments to take better care of migrant workers, including those with HIV/Aids, to prevent diseases from spreading.
The warning follows concerns about health conditions for the workers, most of whom do not have access to health services or are reluctant to seek them out.
Many are illegal workers and they encounter problems communicating with health officials, a recent workshop on migrant labourers’ reproductive health in Phnom Penh was told.
Sunee Talawat, a Thai activist who monitors workers living with HIV/Aids in Southeast Asia, said many Aids-infected migrant workers stop taking their anti-viral drugs after they run out.
Inconsistent treatment results in increased drug resistance, requiring stronger and more expensive drugs.
Ms Sunee said there should be inter-government help to ensure treatment records of workers in their native country can be referenced.
This would ensure that anti-viral drug treatment can continue when they migrate to another country.
She said the exchange of information among members of Asean is crucial as the grouping moves close to the free mobility of workers in 2015.
It should start with professionals in such areas as medicine, nursing and engineering.
Ms Sunee said better health policies would help contain the spread of cross-border diseases.
Migrant workers who illegally enter another country tend to face more health risks because they do not dare to identify themselves and seek mainstream health treatment when they fall ill for fear of being sent home, said Rachael McGuin, of the Mekong Migration Network.
By The Bangkok Post
Published on 7 October 2012
The 2012 Referral Directory was compiled and published by Chab Dai Coalition and the International Labor Organization (ILO), in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans, & Youth Rehabilitation (MOSVY) and the National Committee to Lead the Suppression of Human Trafficking, Smuggling, Labor Exploitation and Sexual Exploitation in Women and Children (NC-STSLS).
The directory is a useful tool for national & regional social workers, border authorities, and community-based service providers working with Cambodian migrants & trafficked persons and aims to assist these stakeholders to make appropriate and effective referrals for their clients. It includes the contact details and program descriptions of direct service providers (referrals, recovery and psychosocial support services, legal, medical, income generation and job placement), as well as the contact information for Cambodian embassies in the region and regional coalitions working to combat human trafficking.
Available to download in Khmer and English:
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Referral Directory 2012 [PDF 3MB]
Referral Directory: Cambodia 2012 [PDF 2MB]