Deadline nears for 'little ghosts'

Deadline nears for 'little ghosts'

Returnees can go back to S Korea

Thai workers who were approved to re-enter South Korea on work visas take a group picture prior to departing from Suvarnabhumi airport’s departure terminal. (File photo: Department of Employment)
Thai workers who were approved to re-enter South Korea on work visas take a group picture prior to departing from Suvarnabhumi airport’s departure terminal. (File photo: Department of Employment)

The Ministry of Labour on Saturday urged undocumented Thai workers, or "little ghosts", in South Korea to report to Korean immigration authorities before a Feb 28 deadline so they can have an opportunity to return to the country and work legally under a special programme.

South Korea's Special Voluntary Department Programme ensures the migrants will not face legal action, said Labour Minister Suchart Chomklin. The programme, which opened on Nov 7, provides an opportunity for migrants to return to South Korea to work legally after agreeing to return to Thailand, he said.

However, after the Feb 28 deadline, those found guilty of living and working illegally in South Korea will be fined up to KRW30 million (about 800,000 baht), deported and barred from re-entering the country, the minister said.

South Korean government agencies, including the Ministry of Justice, have since Oct 11 been cracking down on illegal migrant workers, which has prompted more illegal workers to voluntarily leave the country, Mr Suchart said.

So far, 2,601 undocumented Thai migrants have applied to leave South Korea under the programme while 2,259 have returned home, said Pairoj Chotikasatien, director-general of the Department of Employment (DoE).

The number of illegal Thai workers in South Korea is estimated to be 100,000.

Thailand has secured quotas to supply about 15,000 workers to work in South Korea this year, Mr Pairoj said, adding 10,000 of them will receive job placements via South Korea's Employment Permit System and the rest via private recruitment agencies.

The 10,000 jobs are in the agriculture, livestock and construction sectors while the 5,000 others involve welders, technicians and painters, he said.

The government is in talks with South Korean officials to provide more seasonal job opportunities to Thai workers, he said.

Undocumented Thai migrants who are interested in returning to Thailand under the programme can contact local authorities at immigration offices near them or visit, Mr Pairoj said.

Before leaving South Korea, the migrants must prepare a document giving their intent to leave the country, their passport and an air ticket, Mr Pairoj said.

Those who need interpretation services can call the 1345 Immigration Contact Centre number or visit www.immigration.go.kor, he said.

"All [illegal] Thai migrant workers in South Korea are being advised to take this opportunity to report themselves to the authorities and return to Thailand," Mr Suchart said.

"Living and working illegally overseas means having to always hide from authorities, being deprived of basic work benefits and paying more for healthcare services," he added.

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