Short Doc: Illegal Immigrants on the Mae Sot Garbage Dump
In my documentary I'm following a group of mostly Burmese immigrants who are living and working with their families on a garbage dump in Mae Sot, Thailand. They earn their money by picking out and recycling plastic and glass bottles. The immigrants live on the dump because they have no other place to go. If they leave the dump they might be arrested and sent back.
At least two million Burmese work in Thailand of which only one fourth have valid work permits.*1 The number of illegal Burmese increased dramatically after 1990, as increasing human rights abuses and economic hardships forced young men and women to leave Burma.
In Thailand, illegal Burmese workers are doing the bulk of the lowly paid or dirty work that Thais in general don't want to do. Immigrants do it for 1-2 euro's a day. "Some employers say they give accommodation, food, electricity so they don't need to pay the workers, so there are a range of exploitative conditions that are there."*2
When you have no papers, you can be sent home any second by the Thai government. "Sending these refugees back to Burma is sending them back to possible death, slave labour or forced recruitment as soldiers," said Zoya Phan, of the Burma Campaign UK."*3
While the Thai authorities insist that no one will be forced to return to Burma against their will, they have said that those who want to go home could start returning immediately. It has been claimed that officials have already been putting pressure on some of the refugees.*3
*1 The Mizzima - Mizzima.com; 28 November 2008 *2 Radio Nederland Wereldomroep - Rnw.nl; 17 June 2005 *3 The Independent - Independent.co.cuk; 5 February 2010