Thai police oppose measures to relax regulations on migrant workers holding a temporary work permit, saying the move breaches international immigration principles and will adversely affect Thailand’s migrant labour management.
The measures endorsed by the cabinet on 23 February were proposed by the labour minister.
The police Immigration Bureau recently voiced its objection to the measures through deputy national police chief Srivara Ransibrahmanakul, while Pol Gen Srivara has sent a letter to the Labour Ministry to point out their grave concerns, a police source said.
The ministry can propose the cabinet review the measures if it agrees, observers say.
Under the cabinet resolution, migrant workers who have yet to pass a nationality verification process and hold temporary work permits, known as pink cards, are allowed to live and work in Thailand for a maximum of two years, or no later than 31 March 2018, after their work permit expired on 31 March this year.
The cabinet agreed on a proposal by the Labour Ministry to extend the two-year renewal of the temporary work permit up to four times, or eight years in total, the source said.
The cabinet’s resolution applies to migrant workers from Burma, Laos and Cambodia.
In addition, the cabinet resolution also allows migrant workers who hold national verification documents issued by their counties of origin, temporarily being used as a substitute for their passports that are about to expire, to switch to holding the pink card.
Police said there will be a total of 3.4 million pink card holders under this policy.
Of this number, as many as 1.6 million, or 47 percent, have not completed the required national verification process.
What will occur is unfair treatment among migrant workers as those holding a passport will have to get their passports renewed every five years, while the pink card holders, even though almost half of them have yet to pass national verification, will in practice be allowed to stay in Thailand for up to eight years, the police source said.
It’s also unfair that the pink card holders are now, by regulation, exempt from reporting to the authorities every 90 days as required under Section 37 of the Immigration Act, the source said.
Also, since pink card holders no longer have to pay the re-entry permit fee of 500 baht each as stated in Section 39 of the immigration law, the state will lose about 813 million baht in fees from those 1.6 million migrant workers, the source said.
Police proposed the maximum amount of time those temporary work permit holders are allowed to stay in Thailand while their national verification process in pending be limited to only two years.
They should be denied the right to an extension, the source said.
“Giving them extensions will make both the workers and their employers lose motivation to comply with the main immigration policy,” the source said.
In addition, police are concerned about the national security implications.
They said it would be difficult to locate all migrant workers when they are allowed to stay for many years in the country.
More importantly, the government should require pink card holders to strictly follow Section 37 concerning 90-day reporting, and Section 39 concerning the re-entry permit fee, as is the case with migrant workers from other nations, the source said.
To allow migrant workers holding national verification documents issued by their governments which are already stamped with non-immigrant visas — valid for four to six years — to switch to holding the pink card that does not conform to the international principles of immigration, the source said.
That is because those migrants have passed the national verification process while the pink card is normally issued for those who are yet to pass that process and for stateless people.
“In the past, the aim of the immigration policy was getting those illegal migrant workers into the immigration process so all of them have national verification documents,” the source said.
“But now we will instead urge them to switch to holding the pink card, which is against immigration principles.
“No other country will do this.”