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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Migrant workers are now facing hefty fines for overstaying their visas

Burmese migrant workers at the Sang Chareon Hot Dip Galvinize Co Ltd in Pathum Thani told MAP Foundation that they are being fined over Bt15,000 for overstaying because of the floods. The workers' visas expired on October 28 and the human resources manager who held their passports could not get to the Immigration office because Pathum Thani was under water. On November 25, they were told that Immigration would charge them Bt15,000 each for the 20 days overstay. Overstay fees for visa are Bt500 a day with a maximum of Bt20,000 fine.

These workers have dutifully followed all the rules and regulations to ensure that they are fully documented with the temporary passport and work permit - a system which costs a lot of money and time on their part. Now, they not only face the cost of renewing their passports and work permits after completing their first two-year stint, but also are faced with fines equivalent of 70 days work. On November 29 the Cabinet discussed the waiving of overstay fees but no decision appears to have been made. In April 2010, when the Icelandic volcano caused flight disruptions and tourists were stranded in the airports, a timely waiver of overstay fees was introduced. Why not now?

These workers were then amazed to hear the plan of the government to recruit 100,000 new workers from Burma and fly them in. Surely the effort and energy now should be expended on sorting out the problems for the workers who stayed throughout the floods and for those who had to go home because their places of work were flooded and now need help getting back from the borders and finding or changing their employers.

These workers at the Sang Charoen Hot Dip Galvinize Company never stopped working. When the factory flooded, they were moved to a different branch and carried on. But now, with a Bt15,000 fine hanging over their heads for staying, they realise they would have been better off packing their bags and leaving. If the overstay fees for visas and 90-day notification are not waivered, many more will be doing just that.

MAP Foundation (Thailand) calls for:

1. An immediate waiver of all overstay fees for visas and 90-day notification for all foreigners (including migrant workers) in the flooded provinces of Thailand, and provision of extension of visas.

2. Facilitation of the return of migrants who were previously working in Thailand and who left due to the floods. This would need to include issuing directives to border police and Immigration to allow migrants to travel from the borders to their places of work, and providing information and facilitating the process of migrants changing employers, including waiving the need for the signature of the previous employer in cases where that employer is no longer available.

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