UN Migration Agency Aids Undocumented Myanmar, Cambodian Migrants Leaving Thailand

Date Publish: 
Tuesday, July 11, 2017

07/07/2017 - Irregular migrants in Thailand face an uncertain future after a Royal Decree imposed stiffer penalties on undocumented workers and the businesses that employ them. The decree – Royal Ordinance on the Management of Foreign Workers B.E. 2560 (2017) – was published by the Thai government on 23 June.

The announcement prompted a surge in the number of undocumented migrants returning to Cambodia and Myanmar.

The Thai Government has now postponed implementation of the Decree until 1 January 2018. Nonetheless, at least 34,800 Myanmar and 7,360 Cambodian migrants are known to have left Thailand over the past two weeks.

In response to the exodus, the United Nations Migration Agency (IOM) has been providing humanitarian assistance to returning Myanmar migrants at the Mae Sot-Myawaddy border crossing since 23 June and the Ranong-Kawthaung border crossing since 2 July.

As of 6 July, IOM had provided food, water, milk and medical kits to 18,277 often exhausted migrants arriving at the Mae Sot Immigration Detention Centre (IDC). IOM has also set up tents at the IDC to protect the migrants from the elements while they wait to cross the border.

In Ranong, IOM and NGO partners have helped local authorities transport the belongings of 520 migrants from the Ranong Immigration Detention Centre to boats crossing to Kawthaung in Myanmar.

“The rise in numbers has been prompted by fear of arrest and an uncertain future,” said Janet Ondieki, IOM Thailand Programme Coordinator for Counter-trafficking and Vulnerable Populations. “We are monitoring the situation closely and are working closely with the Thai authorities to provide humanitarian assistance to the migrants where needed.”

On the Cambodian border, where IOM has a Migrant Resource Centre (MRC) in the Cambodian town of Poi Pet, many migrants said they left Thailand fearing arrest, but plan to return when they have obtained the necessary travel documents and visas.

Returns to Cambodia have surged to over 5,000 in the past week, including women and children. Some women said that when they next return to work in Thailand, they plan to leave their children in Cambodia with relatives.

MRC staff members have been providing returnees with medical assistance and advice on how to obtain passports and migrate safely. They also arranged onward travel home for 15 particularly vulnerable migrants.

Thailand has an estimated migrant population of at least four million, of whom over one million are believed to be undocumented.

For further information, please contact IOM Thailand. Janet Ondieki, Tel: +66 2 343 9337, Email: jondieki@iom.int or Reuben Lim, Tel: +66 2 343 9370, Email: rlim@iom.int. Or IOM Cambodia. Troy Dooley, Tel: +855 1236 7498, Email: tdooley@iom.int.