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The Burmese embassy in Thailand will begin issuing temporary passports for children of registered migrant workers on Thursday, according to a government spokesperson.
The passports will be issued at 11 centres across Thailand to all children under the age of 18, whose parents sought to register to work legally in the country in the year 2013, Labour Affairs Director Naing Htun from the Burmese Embassy in Bangkok told DVB.
It follows a dispute between the two countries over the cost of the visa, which Thai authorities initially wanted to price at 1,900 baht (US$65), he said.
“But Burmese officials replied that it would not be reasonable as even adults are being charged only 500 baht (US$17) and urged the cabinet to negotiate,” he said. “So now the visa fee for children is 500 baht. We have printed all the passports and directed the passport centres to begin issuing them.”
The dependent passports themselves will cost 175 baht (US$6) and the children will have the right to stay in Thailand for same length of time as their parents. However, only the children of Burmese migrants who registered in the kingdom in 2013 will be eligible for the programme.
Over 300,000 Burmese migrants have so far applied for temporary passports in Thailand, leaving an estimated 3,000 children in need of dependant documents, according to Naing Htun.
Migrants in Thailand make up about five percent of the county’s workforce, and provide a crucial pool of labour for low-skilled, often dangerous, industries such as fishing and construction. Up to three million people, or about 80 percent, are estimated to come from Burma, and often occupy a quasi-legal existence that leaves them vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.
In 2008, the Thai government introduced its nationality verification (NV) programme, which is intended to legally register all migrants and give them full employee benefits, including heath care and a 300 baht (US$10) minimum wage.
But activists warn that endemic corruption and administrative failures have left thousands of migrants unable to complete the process. Others have fallen into the clutches of exploitative employment agencies, who make them to overpay for their documents, often forcing them into debt bondage. The deadline to register for the NV scheme has been repeatedly delayed, most recently to 15 May.