Officials agree to register 10,000 migrant children

4_migrant kids4Officials in Tak province along the border with Myanmar have agreed to register more than 10,000 children of migrants so that they can attend schools in Thailand and be eligible for health care and other essential services, a lawyer for the Lawyer’s Council of Thailand said last week. Undocumented children of migrants are vulnerable to trafficking and other abuses and neglect because of their unregistered status.

Surapong Kongchantuk, chairman of the Lawyers Council of Thailand’s human rights subcommittee on ethnic minorities said that about 70,000 children in Thailand were unregistered, and 10,000 of them live along the borders of Thailand and Myanmar in Tak province. Most of the unregistered children are in remote districts. They need support from the government, he said, but to receive it they first need to be registered.

“First, 334 children will be registered within two months as a pilot group, then 10,000 of them will follow according to a new order from Provincial Administration Department giving every child an identification code,” Surapong said after meeting with several provincial government agencies and five representatives from public and private schools. They agreed to register the children and offer them education and medical care.

The Thai government has been a signatory to the Education for All initiative of the United Nations since 1990. It recognizes the right of all children of migrant workers, displaced persons and other illegal migrants to receive an education. The government has allocated budget resources to support schools providing education to those migrants and in 2008 the administration of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva voted to include migrant children in its program of 15 years of free education for all children.

Despite these policy measures, however, significant gaps remain in reaching migrant children and implementing the policies.  A 2014 report by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) World Education and Save the Children said, “The Thai government, international NGOs and aid agencies, and local community based organizations have invested significant resources and efforts to provide education services for migrant children, a basic right of child development enshrined in the Convention of the Rights of the Child and under Thai law. However, the provision of education to the children of migrant workers from Myanmar living in Thailand varies significantly across the country.”

The report said the majority of migrant children are likely to be out of school. Barriers to accessing education include language barriers, family economics and the security situation of illegal and unregistered migrants.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said there are around 130 educational centers for migrants run by NGOs that are scattered in different areas and provide diverse programs, teaching and learning methods, teaching content and curricula.