They traveled from China in search of work. They were arrested in the process after Beijing launched a crackdown against illegal labor.
Nearly 1,000 Myanmar migrants are stranded in Chinese detention centers without a way to reach their family members or get back to their homes the former and present migrants said to RFA.
The group of migrants is comprised of border crossers who are not legally documented and people who have overstayed the six-day visas for tourists to work. Many had lost their jobs in recent coronavirus outbreaks and tried to return to Myanmar after being detained by authorities.
More than 100 people are in a detention facility in the province of Guangdong and another 1,000 are located in Baoshan, Yunan province, close to the Myanmar border.
Aye Moe, 26, was detained for seven months in an addiction rehabilitation center in Baoshan until her release, and her removal on the 20th of May together with 152 other detainees.
She informed the RFA’s Burmese Service there were about 1,000 Myanmar nationals in the center including 14 from the Rakhine minority who were being detained in connection with forged Chinese identity cards. This additional crime impeded the deportation process.
“You cannot get an employment in the absence of an identity card. The brokers then gave them fake registration cards , which the police discovered. The 14 Rakhines weren’t even permitted to complete the forms for immigration,” she said.
“I did my best to remain brave and asked the police chief to assist them. He told me he was unable to help and that he did not receive the case files until they were given to him. He claimed he was able to perform the tasks he was given,” she said.
Hnin Hnin from Yangon Hnin Hnin, who was working in a battery plant situated in Huazhou, Guangdong, told RFA that her husband and her were among 28 arrested in the factory in a raid by police last February.
“Since I was pregnant they sent me back to the factory,” she explained.
“They told me I’d be deported. I have already received a confirmation note from Myanmar authorities, dating from four months ago, however I haven’t received a letter back. I’m unemployed and would like to return home and have my baby within Myanmar,” Hnin Hnin said.
The expecting mother, 36, stated that eight members of the group including her husband were sent to Myanmar on the 19th of May over the border between China and Kachin state, with the help from Kachin State’s Myanmar Embassy.
The crackdown on factories that employ workers from migrant farms began in the beginning of 2021. Since the time many Myanmar migrants have been hiding in forest areas outside of the cities where they had previously were employed.
Others have tried to go back to Myanmar by paying $10,000 yuan (about U.S. $1,500) to agents who took the travelers on a three-day trip starting from Guangdong up to Myanmar. Myanmar crossing, only to find were arrested on their way.
Ye Lwin Tun, a 26-year-old from Kyaukphyu village of Namsang Township, northern Shan State said to RFA the three acquaintances were not yet freed.
“Over 170 people have now been released. We heard they would release more than 100 people from the prisons. A few of them are Vietnamese, but the rest are Myanmar citizens,” the man said.
“There are around five or four prisons in Guangdong. They are enormous. They did not place us in one prison but instead into different prisons. Three of our villager haven’t been released as of yet. Chinese police announced that all illegal immigrants who did not have COVID-19 vaccinations will be detained. Myanmar Citizens are currently being denied by Chinese firms because their owners are afraid to hire the people. If they are found guilty in the process, they will have to pay fines and could be sent to jail,” he said.
Ye Lwin Tun said he was arrested in the month of October the same year with approximately 300 Myanmar citizens while working at a plant in Huazhou which makes shampoo caps.
Kyaw Kyaw Kyaw Kyaw, a labor activist from Ruili, China, said typically it takes 20 to 30 days to allow Myanmar people to be sent back to the border when they surrender before the Chinese police. But they must remain in detention centers for at least three or six months.
“It takes a long time for the mainland to deport them,” said the official. “If they do not have passports, they will be released within a maximum of 20 days on grounds of COVID rules. But for those from Guangdong, they could not get past Baoshan. Whether they take a shortcut or not, it is impossible to pass that line. If arrested, they could be held for at least 3 to 6 months.”
Kyaw Kyaw stated that there are people who are in detention for a long time and have little contact with families, or the Embassy.
RFA reached out to the Myanmar Embassy Beijing and the Chinese Embassy of Myanmar via mail the 25th of May May 25, to ask for feedback but haven’t received a response.
In March In March, The Chinese Embassy of Yangon in Yangon told RFA via e-mail that China respects serious the right of workers from abroad, and that foreigners must be respectful of Chinese laws.
Translated and written by Khin Maung Nyane. It was written by English written by Eugene Whong.