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Flow Monitoring Surveys: Insights into the Profiles and Vulnerabilities of Myanmar Migrants to Thailand (Round Three) (August 2019)

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Labour migration plays a key role in the South-East Asian context. In Thailand, this is owing to the country’s steady economic growth over the past decades and the subsequent need for labour. Thailand has continued to attract low-skilled workers from neighbouring countries. The 2019 UN Migration Reports states “the number of non-Thai residents within the country has increased from an estimated 3.7 million in 2014 to 4.9 million in 2018, which includes approximately 3.9 million migrant workers from Cambodia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Myanmar and Viet Nam” (p. XI). The actual number of migrants living in Thailand is believed to be higher still, as undocumented migrants are not accounted for in official statistics. Nationals from Myanmar make up the largest migrant worker population in Thailand, with recent estimates putting the figure at 2.3 million individuals.

To gain a better understanding of the migration patterns and the nature of flows from Myanmar to Thailand - with a particular focus on any possible vulnerabilities - IOM Thailand’s Migrant Assistance and Counter-Trafficking Unit initiated a survey exercise in June 2018 in both Mae Sot and Phop Phra in the province of Tak, using one of the IOM Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) tools - the so-called Flow Monitoring component. Flow Monitoring is a tool designed to track movement flows, and the overall situation at key points of origin, transit and destination. Hence, it is an optimal tool for providing a more detailed understanding of the migration situation at the Thai-Myanmar border. With special consideration to the experience of migrant workers, IOM Thailand aimed to find out more about migrants’ profiles, drivers of migration, level of preparedness for migration, as well as associated vulnerabilities and return intentions.

IOM Thailand collected three rounds of data over a duration of six months: from mid-June to mid-August, from mid-August to mid-October and from mid-October to mid-December 2018.
From mid-June until mid-August 2018, a total of 4,284 Myanmar nationals were surveyed in the province of Tak, of whom 3,765 were identified as migrant workers. The 3,765 migrant workers fell into two different migrant groups. The first group was comprised of incoming migrants, arriving in Thailand prior to starting employment and the second group of outgoing migrants, returning after their employment ended. Two different survey tools were designed to capture the most accurate information possible for both target groups. The findings served to identify migration patterns as well as common challenges and vulnerabilities.

In September 2018, IOM Thailand published “Flow Monitoring Surveys: Insights into the Profiles and Vulnerabilities of Myanmar Migrants to Thailand”, which analyzed the first round of survey data collected in Mae Sot and Phop Phra between mid-June and mid-August 2018. The initial report included an extensive theoretical section, reviewing existing literature for the five thematic areas of interest: Myanmar migrant profiles, drivers of migration, pre-migration preparations and arrangements, migrant vulnerabilities and return intentions.

A second report was then published in January 2019, covering a data collection timeframe from mid-August to mid-October 2018. During this period a total of 3,233 Myanmar nationals were surveyed in the province of Tak, of whom 3,013 were identified as migrant workers. The second report drew comparisons between the two data sets, comparing results and identifying similarities and differences between the population groups.

From mid-October to mid-December 2018 the team collected 4,188 additional surveys in the districts of Mae Sot and Phop Phra, of which 4,049 were completed by Myanmar migrant workers. Looking at the data in its totality, DTM Thailand collected 11,705 surveys in six months, of which 10,827 were completed by Myanmar migrant workers.

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