Thai government proposals to deport pregnant migrant workers will heighten discrimination rather than boost the fight against human trafficking, Human Rights Watch said Friday.
Thailand’s Labour Ministry recently proposed expelling migrant workers, believing they will receive better care in their own countries.
The rights group said the measure was floated in response to the US State Department’s recent classification of Thailand in “Tier 2″ of its watch list, a status for countries demonstrating poor efforts to stamp out human trafficking.
“It’s an idea to send them back home because they can receive better care while they are pregnant so that mothers will not have health problems,” Somkiat Chayasriwong, permanent secretary to the Labour Ministry, told AFP.
“We have set up committee to study in detail how to take care pregnant migrant workers at this stage,” he added.
But the proposal has provoked fury among rights groups who decry the scheme’s potential to worsen the lot of migrants, while simultaneously failing to tackle the root causes of people trafficking.
“The labour minister’s plan has nothing to do with stopping human trafficking but will cause further discrimination against women migrant workers,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
“Prime Minister Yingluck should immediately direct the Labor Ministry to drop this unlawful and thoroughly bad idea.”
If it is sincere about tackling the trafficking scourge, Thailand should ensure the children of migrants go to school while cracking down on government officials and labour recruiters who hire victims, he added.
Last month’s State Department report criticised Thailand for failing to respond to trafficking — mostly from neighbouring countries — into work as forced prostitutes, beggars and labourers in fishing industry and factories.
The report highlighted Thailand’s failure to identify and protect victims adding “the government has not shown evidence of increasing efforts to address human trafficking” compared to 2011.