To passport or not to passport? — That is the question

Ever considered going to another country, for vacation or work, without a passport? The answer might be obvious to you — but for millions around the world, it’s not as clear.

It is estimated that there are 25.8 million migrant workers in Asia Pacific¹, of which four million are in Thailand, mostly coming from Cambodia, Myanmar and Lao PDR.² An estimated 1.6 million have irregular status in Thailand³, which means they do not having the proper travel (passport) and/or working documents (work permit and visa).

There are many reasons why someone would irregularly migrate to another country, such as the high cost of a passport, the time-consuming application process or possibly a broker has promised he/she can get them into the country for a fraction of the price of going legally. No matter the reason, migrating irregularly can put anyone at risk of being exploited or trafficked for forced labour. Unfortunately, unscrupulous brokers/recruitment agents, employers, and others will take advantage of someone’s irregular status for their own profit.

IOM X produced Know Before You Go, a short animated video about how to migrate safely. The video is being shown at IOM migrant resource centers around Cambodia and at workshops in Lao PDR. In order to test the effectiveness and impact, IOM X partnered with research agency Rapid Asia to conduct pre- and post-surveys with 30 aspirant male migrants aged 18–35, from Cambodia to see if there was a shift in their knowledge, attitudes and intended behaviour of migrating safely (legally with the right travel and/or work documents).


In the pre-survey, all respondents were aware of human trafficking, but only 13% were able to define what it meant. This meant few respondents knew that irregular migration could lead to trafficking. Fortunately, after watching the video, 83% of respondents indicated that would advise friends to visit a migrant resource center for information before migrating abroad.

In both the pre- and post-surveys, respondents believed that securing a job with a licensed recruitment agent (usually more expensive than an unlicensed broker) was not worth the cost. This implies that aspirant migrants are not fully aware of the personal risks of using unregistered brokers and recruiters, a common practice in Cambodia. In response to this finding, IOM X is looking into featuring positive stories of successful migrant workers who can provide testimonial evidence as to the benefits of investing more up front towards safe migration in future media content development.

The video was successful at increasing viewers’ knowledge of safe migration, positive attitudes towards the time and cost needed to migrate regularly, and the behaviours of advising friends to migrate regularly. IOM X will continue to disseminate the video to local grassroots organizations, migrant resource centers and NGOs in communities with high rates of out migration.

To download the impact assessment, click here.

Watch Know Before You Go in Khmer or Laotian (with English subtitles)




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