Laos: Oudomxay legalises foreign workers

VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN) - Oudomxay provincial authorities are registering foreigners and issuing them with temporary work permits in a bid to regulate the increasing number of undocumented migrant workers in the province.

At present, there are more than 2,500 foreign workers in Oudomxay, including illegal workers who entered as tourists but have subsequently found work and stayed on without legal documentation.

Authorities expect to register at least 2,500 foreigners this year, an official with the provincial Labour and Social Welfare Department’s labour management division, Mr Vilath Inthavong, said.

Speaking to Vientiane Times by phone yesterday, Mr Vilath said the division will work closely with provincial police and other authorities to register about 2,500 migrant workers this year. This number is higher than last year’s figure of 1,000 because more foreign nationals are working on construction of the Laos-China railway.

“The authorities will allow migrant workers to work in Oudomxay for three months after they obtain legal documentation. Each worker must pay 300,000 kip a month for the duration of a work permit,” Mr Vilath said.

“Under the law, some of these workers should be repatriated as their circumstances don’t meet the criteria required to apply for a work permit.”

Mr Vilath said the division had previously worked with the authorities to register migrant workers to ensure social order and protect workers’ rights in anticipation of the Asean Economic Community coming into effect.

Last year the division registered 1,553 migrant workers who were mostly Vietnamese, Chinese and Thai nationals working in the service sector, agriculture and industry.

Mr Vilath said workers needed to obtain the relevant documents before the deadline issued by authorities. If not, they might be repatriated. He said many came to work for foreign-owned investment projects and had a legal work permit to begin with, but did not return home after the project finished and their documents expired. Many immigrants work as hawkers, nail cutters and painters, beauticians, and scrap metal collectors and buyers. The provincial authorities are informing companies, factories and other business operators of their requirements in registering migrant workers, so the companies can then provide a list of their foreign workers in accordance with the law.

“These measures are aimed at collecting information and identifying the number of foreigners working here illegally so we can assign resources to best regulate the situation and avoid the problems we’ve experienced in the past,” Mr Vilath said.

The government has recently opened centres in provincial Labour and Social Welfare Departments across the country aiming to issue temporary work visas for illegal foreign workers.

At present, there are over 24,000 illegal workers out of 54,000 foreign workers in Laos, mainly from Vietnam, China and Thailand. The government expected to complete the registering of 24,000 illegal workers by the end of this year.

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