As the numbers of migrants in Mae Sot and surrounding towns continues to rise, the numbers of migrant workers experiencing labor exploitation, trafficking, immigration related offenses and abuse has steadily increased. Migrants arrive in Mae Sot with little or no money, and in need of food and shelter. They have limited access to information related to what they can do, where they can work and what rights, if any, they have. Because they are undocumented, they cannot seek services from Thai or refugee organizations, and most lack knowledge of NGO services in the area.
Migrant workers and their children in this situation are approached by trafficking agents and offered ‘help’ – this aid leaves them abused, indebted and in greater crisis and sustained risk. The Tak authorities run anti-trafficking initiatives to address the plight of these people, but the majority of migrant worker families cannot access these services due to language barriers, a fear of Thai authorities and lack of awareness.
In response to this, SAW established the Call Center in 2010 to serve as an information and support resource for migrants and their families. Through all of SAW’s community outreach programs, the Call Center is advertised. Migrants can call for assistance with any issues: people trying to escape trafficking situations, migrants seeking information on the immigration process, people needing help with health issues (minor and major), migrants who’ve been arrested by police, and more. SAW provides a range of support to callers depending on the issue they have – from giving information, directly providing services (shelter, counseling, medical services, family reunification, rescuing the caller from a trafficking situation, bailing people out of prison, etc) or referring them to other local organizations who can help with the caller’s predicament. SAW receives approximately 1000 calls per year and provides much needed support to migrant workers through this project.