Migrants are still slow to register births
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Migrants are still slow to register births

Lack of documents curbs access to rights

Three-quarters of babies born to migrant workers in Thailand are not legally registered. A lack of birth certificates hinders their access to basic education and healthcare, says the World Vision Foundation of Thailand (WVFT).

Sarawut: Poor understanding

According to WVFT director Sarawut Rachasrimuang, despite a procedural change in 2008, which allows migrant workers from neighbouring countries to register the births of their children in the kingdom, around 75% of migrant workers' children remain without a valid birth certificate.

"The main reason is their mothers or caregivers are not aware that they need to bring the medical birth certificates issued by the hospital to obtain the birth certificates from the district office," he said.

According to a recent study by WVFT, 32% of all migrant parents surveyed said they are unaware of the need to register the birth of their children, while 25.3% of respondents said that they do not know where to register.

About 18% of those surveyed claimed the lack of personnel assistance as a reason for not registering births, while 10.1% cited an inability to communicate in Thai as the main problem.

About 7.3% of parents surveyed cited logistics and transportation problems as an issue, 3.9% chose to not register due to their status as undocumented migrants, while the remaining 3.4% said they lack the financial means to register the births of their children.

The study also found that many migrant workers and Thais -- including local civil registration officers and hospital staff -- lack a clear understanding of the registration process and requirements, and nor are they aware of migrants' rights under Thai laws.

"Some Thais still believe that migrant children will automatically be granted citizenship upon registration," said Mr Sarawut.

"As a result, many migrant children have no access to healthcare and education, which holds back their self-development. Even worse, they may fall prey to human trafficking and exploitation due to the absence of the identification document."

To improve the well-being of migrant children, WVFT has created a project called "Empowering Civil Society Organisations for the Protection of Migrant Children" to raise awareness among migrants about the importance of a child's basic rights, as well as to promote birth registration of migrant children.

The project is funded by the European Union (EU) and is being carried out in Chumphon, Ranong and Tak provinces, where the number of migrant workers is high and rising.

Within three years, the project aims to improve birth registration rates in the three provinces by 35-95%.

"Migration is one of key priorities in the EU's global strategy, and we are committed to support partner countries on migration issues,' said EU Ambassador to Thailand Pirkka Tapiola.

"This programme will help improve the living condition of migrant children and at the same time contribute to a more sustainable development of Thailand," the ambassador added.

In 2015, Mahidol University's Institute of Population and Social Research said the total number of migrant workers from Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos stood at 3,518,851 -- consisting of 2,782,880 migrant workers from Myanmar, 454,000 from Cambodia, and 281,971 from Laos.

The number of dependents -- which includes migrants' children -- were estimated to be as high as 1,032,198, bringing the total number of migrants to 4,551,049.

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