In an effort to reduce the number of illegal immigrants in Cambodia, the Interior Ministry is planning to locate undocumented workers and grant official citizenship to those who can prove they lived here prior to 1975, officials said Sunday.
During a meeting on the Immigration Law on Thursday, the ministry put the word out for village and commune chiefs to track down undocumented immigrants and instruct them to register with immigration authorities, said Touch Naruth, Phnom Penh police commissioner.
The meeting, held at the ministry and presided over by Interior Minister Sar Kheng, was attended by nearly 200 provincial officials and police officers.
Undocumented immigrants who are not eligible for citizenship “will be subject to the Immigration Law,” Touch Naruth said.
Article 36 of the Immigration Law states that any immigrant working in Cambodia without a labor card is subject to expulsion from the country. The law also stipulates that any person who fraudulently enters or who helps a person fraudulently enter Cambodia is subject to fines of up to $250 and to three to six month prison terms before expulsion.
In Phnom Penh alone, the authorities will have more than 70,000 immigrants to contact, said Korng Sambo, Kandal province’s deputy police chief.
“[The crackdown] will be good for security as well as to stop [illegal immigrants] from competing for jobs with Cambodians,” said Kornh Heang, Kompong Speu province’s first deputy governor.
Sam Rainsy Party lawmaker Yim Sovann said that although regulating immigrants is important for security and economic stability, a push to document rather than simply expel them could pave the way for corruption.
“Because of corruption I worry about the process,” he said. “Most immigrants are illegal, [but] most bribe police,” he claimed.
Interior Ministry Spokesman Khieu Sopheak could not be reached for comment Sunday while government spokesman Khieu Kanharith said he was in France and could not comment.