Press release: Migrant Workers Call for the Protection of their Rights to Access Justice: Echoing and Expanding the TIP 2010 Recommendations

Press release 16th June 2010 Mae Sot Thailand
Migrant Workers Call for the Protection of their Rights to Access Justice:
Echoing and Expanding the TIP 2010 Recommendations

Migrant labour groups meeting in Mae Sot yesterday expressed concern that migrant workers who have been exploited at work face multiple challenges in accessing justice. Protected by the Labour Protection Laws of Thailand, all migrant workers, regardless of their immigration status, have the right to pursue justice through the legal mechanisms in Thailand. But, according to the migrant factory workers, agricultural workers and construction site workers represented at the meeting, the reality is far different. Migrants reported that they can easily file their complaint with the Labour Protection Office, but on returning to their work site, they are either picked up by immigration or are immediately dismissed by the employer. Since migrants mostly live on work-site, a system encouraged by the local authorities, when migrants lose their job they also lose their accommodation. Hundreds of jobless and homeless migrants out on the streets are quickly considered a security risk and again they face arrest and deportation.

Migrants who have managed to take their case to the Labour Court, after the employer has ignored the Labour Protection Office order to pay compensation, told of how they find themselves embroiled in a case which can drag on for years. In some cases, longer than the validity of their work permit. In others, they face difficulty finding work during this time because they are blacklisted by other employers, or they cannot transfer their work permit because the employer refuses to sign the papers.

Migrant workers are only allowed to change employers in particular circumstances: that is, the death of the employer, the employer stops his/her business, the employer uses physical violence or the employer does not comply with the labour protection laws. Migrants then have only seven days to find a new employer and complete the process of changing the work permit, a process which requires the cooperation of the original employer. The May 26th 2009 Cabinet Resolution on migration also introduced one more restriction which further endangers migrants and hinders their access to justice: migrant worker permits are colour coded by work sector and migrants are not allowed to change sectors. Employers in the same sectors know each other and pass on information about migrants who exercise their rights, resulting in migrants not being able to find new work in the same sector.

The migrant labour groups welcome the following recommendations to the Thai Government in the US 2010 Trafficking in Persons report, but call for these recommendations to be expanded to include migrant victims of all forms of exploitation and abuse
• to allow all adult trafficking victims to travel, work and reside outside of shelters
• to provide legal alternatives to the removal of trafficking victims to countries in which they would face retribution or hardship,
• to develop and implement mechanisms to allow adult trafficking victims to reside in Thailand
In addition, to further facilitate migrant workers ability to access justice, the migrant labour groups call on the Royal Thai Government:
• To increase the efficiency of the Labour Courts to shorten the period of time from the beginning of a case until its conclusion
• To lengthen the time period to find new employers to a realistic and reasonable period of time agreed on in consultation with migrant workers.
• To lift the restrictions on changing employers and changing work sectors to comply with ILO Decent Work standards and Article 8, C143
• To develop mechanisms which ensure that migrant workers do not lose their legal right to stay in Thailand due to exercising their rights to justice
• To allow undocumented migrants who have been victims of exploitation and who are pursuing a legal case against the exploiter to be able to avail of whatever migrant registration scheme is available at the time, currently allowing the migrant to enter into the process of nationality verification and application for temporary passport.
igned by:
Arakan Labour Campaign (ALC)
Burma Lawyers’Council (BLC)
Democratic Party for a New Society (DPNS)
Joint Action Committee for Burmese Affairs (JACBA)
MAP Foundation
Pan Kant Gor Workers Association (PKGWA)
Yaung Chi Oo Workers Association (YCOWA)

For further information please contact:
Mr Suttipong: 0815951366 (Thai)
Mr Zaw Zaw Htun: 0815323177 (Burmese)
Ms Jackie Pollock: 0860904118 (English)

1 2010 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, US State Department
2 ILO C143 Migrant Workers (Supplementary Provisions) Convention, 1975 Article 8 On condition that he has resided legally in the territory for the purpose of employment, the migrant worker shall not be regarded as in an illegal or irregular situation by the mere fact of the loss of his employment, which shall not in itself imply the withdrawal of its authorization of residence or, as the case may be, work permit.