Coordination key for tackling issue of illegal foreign workers in Laos

Deputy Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone said last week authorities from the labour and social welfare sector across the country should speed up the registration of illegal foreign workers. 
The flow of illegal workers into Laos has created worry among the local people, who believe they have been taking over some jobs reserved for Lao nationals.
The domestic labour market is limited and it is hard for local workers to get employed by constructors. This public complaint has been conveyed to the relevant State organisations so that they can find solutions.
All illegal foreign workers mainly come from countries such as Vietnam, China and Thailand that share borders with Laos. They work in many fields, especially construction projects carried out by investors from their own countries, while some become constructors of houses and small sized buildings. Some Lao employers like to hire them because they are confident about their professionalism, commitment and demand for reasonable paid.   
Asean states have launched free trade cooperation and an economic cooperation framework has promoted the flow of labour in the region.
However, this policy may add a lot of illegal workers in each Asean state if measures to prevent their entry are not strictly enforced. It is not only the problem of disturbing local labour markets, but this trend could also lead to the occupation of business activities reserved for local nationals.
Laos is a country facing the problem of illegal migrant workers and it is believed that some foreigners have already taken over businesses which have for long been the preserve of Lao people.
Some illegal workers individually travel to Laos in the guise of tourists. Then they try to find new vocations or settle in the country.
It is observed that at the beginning, this type of illegal workers rely on projects operated by investors from their own countries, and then they try to seek other ways for survival after they gain enough knowledge of the living conditions in Laos.
Some foreign workers accompany employers from their own country to work in Laos. The companies legally import labourers according to the Lao laws, but even the projects are completed, they continue to illegally live in Laos and find work.
The Lao government has fully acknowledged this situation and has attempted to regulate and crack down on these workers by registering them and seeking proof of nationality. But it seems these procedures need to be made more effective and there should be greater coordination among authorities at all levels.
Solving the issue of illegal migrant workers requires several mechanisms to support operations. This includes the enforcement of the immigration law, better coordination among authorities, a deadline for registering such workers and related factors. These things are related to each other.
Those who break the immigration law by overstaying in Laos or doing something wrong should not be allowed to remain in the country by the immigration officials. It is believed that the official have done it.
Improving coordination and reporting systems for the labour and public security sectors at every level and involving village authorities is key for controlling the number of illegal or overstaying foreigners. We all know these people usually live and work in villages. Therefore, labour authorities at higher level must create some inspection and reporting systems to push local officials to monitor such people.
Every provincial authority has to register foreign workers in accordance with the Lao laws. If their temporary work permits have expired or if some workers work without permits, the authorities have to force their employers to get the permits extended or to get the workers registered. Those who work individually or operate businesses without permits must be sent back to their own countries. It is not necessary to issue work permits for them. If labour authorities did so, numbers of illegal migrant work continue to increase. It will be hard for Laos to tackle this issue.
At the same time, the State must seek tools to prevent the provision of facilities by some officials in exchange for some benefits from illegal labourers who live and work in districts or provinces. This is very important as we need to cut their backup support system.
Registration is a way to ensure those who are working illegally are brought under some legal system. Otherwise, there will be a gap that will encourage more illegal migrant workers to come to Laos. But authorities must be careful while using this method. It is impossible to keep open the process of registration for addressing this issue forever, even thought the government believes that registration can reduce some of the complaints.
To ensure the effective handling of the issue of illegal migrants, authorities should not link this matter with political relations between Laos and other countries. Addressing this problem is an internal matter related to the enforcement of Lao laws and political relations are another matter. If authorities combine political relations to involve, their implementation may be failure because of having worries. The authorities should not take this condition to be a referent while practicing their duty.   
Laos began registering migrant workers in 2012 to ensure social order and to protect their rights in anticipation of the formation of the Asean Economic Community.
So far, more than 42,000 foreign workers have been registered in Laos, mainly from Vietnam, China and Thailand, and about 23,000 have provided proof of nationality. These foreign workers account for a large proportion of the labour market in Laos. 
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By Editorial Desk
(Latest Update January 17, 2019)


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