Nationality Check Deadline Leaves Burmese Migrants in Limbo

Today is the end of the deadline for foreign migrant workers to identify their nationalities to the Thai authorities. This leaves many, especially Burmese nationals, in fear because this procedure includes handing over personal details to the country they have fled from. If they do not comply with the authorities, the workers are threatened to be deported.

The international news channel Al Jazeera English have recently aired this report:

Prachatai, a Thai news web site, has more details and are also reporting on the efforts by Thai activists to extend the deadline. Key parts:

The Lao and Cambodian governments have agreed to send officials to conduct the nationality verification process in Thailand, but the Burmese government requires Burmese migrants to return to their country and undergo the process using one of 12 agencies endorsed by the Burmese government.

(…) Wilaiwan Saetia, Chairperson of the Thai Labour Solidarity Committee, said that there were 1.4 million Burmese among 2 million migrant workers in Thailand.  So far, only 400,000 had completed the nationality verification process, and hundreds of thousands were expected to be deported after 28 Feb.

In addition to calling for an extension of the deadline, they asked the government to regulate private agencies to stop them overcharging migrant workers in the verification process, and to negotiate with the Burmese government to allow the verification process to take place in Thailand, in order to make it easier, less expensive, safer and more attractive for migrant workers.

(…) To start the process, Burmese migrant workers have to submit their personal information to the Thai authorities to be forwarded to the Burmese authorities, and they must return to Myanmar to apply for temporary passports in order to return to Thailand legally.

(From: “Burmese migrant workers ask Thai government to extend deadline for nationality verification“, Prachatai, Feb 18, 2010 – Emphasis mine)