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Migrant group welcomes UN report

Oct 7, 2009 (DVB), A recent UN human development report that takes a positive stance on migration has been welcomed by a Thai-border based Burmese migrant workers group.

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) report, 'Overcoming Barriers', states that "migrants boost economic output" and recommends the "lowering of barriers to movement and improving the treatment of movers".

The report highlighted an agreement between Burma and Thailand to issue Burmese migrant workers with temporary passports, although said that "continuing complaints suggest that delays and demands for bribes remain common".

Moe Swe, the head of Yaung Chi Oo migrant group in Thailand's Mae Sot, welcomed the focus of the report, but added that there remains "a lot of confusion" surrounding the temporary passport scheme.

When registering for a passport in Thailand, the Thai authorities seek verification of their nationality with Burmese officials across the border, who then refer the case on to local government authorities.

He said that local authorities often demand money from family members of the worker, with "some migrants, threatened by local authorities".

He added that "economic problems, unemployment and the unstable political situation" were causing more Burmese to cross into Thailand in search of work.

The report noted that someone born in Thailand "can expect to live seven more years, to have almost three times as many years of education, and to spend and save eight times as much as someone born in neighbouring Myanmar".

Moe Swe said however that there is a "problem of implementation" of many of Thailand's labour laws, particularly in Mae Sot.

Discrimination of Burmese workers by employers is also a big problem, and is compounded by the fact that employers are often "very close to the local [Thai] authorities".

The report also highlights nations, including Burma, that restrict the departure of migrants, with discrimination common among female migrants. Alongside Sudan and Zimbabwe, Burma was labeled an "extreme case" of internal migration.

"Sudan, Myanmar [Burma] and Zimbabwe each had more than 500,000 crisis-affected people who were beyond the reach of any humanitarian assistance," the report said.

Reporting by Joseph Allchin


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