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Thailand offers work permits to undocumented migrants to curb COVID-19

The Sun Daily, Thailand, 29 December 2020 - Thailand on Tuesday said it would allow undocumented migrant workers from Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar to work in the country legally for about two years to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Migrants have to sign up online and be registered by an employer before mid-September in order to receive a work permit until February 2023, according to a resolution by the cabinet.

They will first have to undergo health checks at a cost of about 7,200 baht ($240), a Thai government spokeswoman said.

The announcement came as Thailand deals with its worst coronavirus outbreak to-date, with more than 1,500 cases since mid-December having been linked to mostly Burmese migrant workers at a seafood market in central Samut Sakhon province.

"The government has been screening migrants in areas at risk, resulting in some employers moving illegal migrant workers out of certain areas to avoid breaking the law," deputy government spokeswoman Traisuree Taisaranakul told reporters.

"Also, illegal workers are panicking and moving out of certain areas, which risks spreading COVID-19," she said, referring to the resolution during a weekly press conference.

Once the registration period ends in mid-February, authorities should "check, crack down on, arrest and prosecute" undocumented migrant workers, according to the resolution.

Thailand has about 2.2 million registered migrant workers - mainly from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos - but many others work informally in sectors from fishing to farming, activists say.

The Migrant Working Group (MWG) - a network of civil society organisations - estimated that between 600,000 and 800,000 migrants would be eligible to register under the new measures.



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