Govt eases welfare rules for migrants

Migrant workers who overstay their work visa will not lose their entitlement to social security benefits, the Labour Ministry said yesterday.

The workers, mostly from Myanmar, are required to leave the country after having worked here for four years. They must return to their home countries and remain there for three years before they can return to work in Thailand.

A change was made to the memorandum of understanding signed between labour authorities of the two countries to reduce the waiting period to one day. However, the change has not been endorsed by the caretaker cabinet which has no power to sign agreements that legally bind the next government.

Without this endorsement, the three-year waiting period remains and more than 100,000 migrant workers who have worked in Thailand for more than four years have been declared as overstaying their work visa and face deportation.

To rectify the problem, the Labour Ministry has proposed that immigration laws be relaxed to allow the overstayers to continue working.

The ministry will ask the Immigration Police Bureau not to arrest them as part of measures to help migrant workers while the country waits for a new government, he said.

Department of Employment director-general Prawit Khiengpol has also allayed workers' fears they might lose social security benefits if they remain in the country as overstayers.

Mr Prawit said the workers retain their right to social security coverage as long as they remain employed and contribute to the Social Security Fund.

Thay Thay Oo, a 25-year-old Myanmar worker in Samut Sakhon, said social security entitlements will cover the hospital bill when she gives birth in two months' time.

She was worried about being sent home and the possible financial burden in the event she was allowed to stay and work in Thailand but was deprived of social security benefits.

Aung Kyaw, president of the Migrant Workers Rights Network, says the delay to the ratification of the MoU amendment could lead to a spike in human trafficking.

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