Housing project improving conditions for migrant workers

migrants1A government-run housing pilot project has markedly improved living conditions for some foreign migrant workers and will serve as a model for expansion as Thailand strives to better the working and living situation for the more than two million foreign migrants in the Kingdom.

Improving living conditions for migrants is also part of the government’s anti-human trafficking and labor rights efforts. The housing project follows on the successful program to document the millions of migrants in the Kingdom so that they are out of the shadows and can receive legal protections and social services such as health care.

“It’s a decent place to live. Our kids go to school at the St Joachim Catholic Center for Migrants nearby and so we don’t have to worry much about them,” Khaek, a 31-year-old migrant from neighboring Myanmar, told the Bangkok Post newspaper about her apartment in a government low-cost housing project in Samut Sakhon, an area just south of Bangkok that is home to many ports and seafood processing plants.

Samut Sakhon is home to 288,658 migrant workers, 258,767 of whom are from Myanmar, 10,066 from Laos and 19,825 from Cambodia.

Khaek’s husband works on a Thai fishing trawler and they live in the housing estate with their four young children. She said her apartment is spacious and clean, unlike the wooden house she had been sharing with several other migrant families. Living conditions for undocumented migrants in many countries, are often squalid. Poor living conditions often lead to other social problems such as violence and the spread of infectious diseases.

The National Housing Authority is overseeing the pilot project, which is active in Samut Sakhon and Ranong, a southern province bordering Myanmar that is also a fishing center. The Authority plans to expand the project to 11 other provinces by April.

The Post reported that an executive decree is being drafted requiring employers to arrange housing for migrant employees within state-specified zones. Currently, the workers find housing on their own, renting rooms directly from the housing project or through a broker.

In another development designed to strengthen the fight against human trafficking and protect women, the Women’s Affairs and Family Development Department has unveiled a new mobile application to help Thai women in trouble overseas.

A Department official said the Yingthai (Thai women) application aimed to provide assistance for Thai women in trouble abroad, particularly those who fell victims to human trafficking.