Debts and dreams: Singapore’s migrant workers

Posted by on October 7, 2011 in Media Coverage, News

International news network CNN carried a story titled Debts and dreams: Singapore’s migrant workers on October 7, 2011. See http://edition.cnn.com/2011/10/07/business/singapore-migrants/index.html.

Opening with a scene from TWC2’s Cuff Road Project — our daily soup kitchen — the 1,600-word story focuses on the way  male migrant workers are exploited and abused, touching on key issues such as exorbitant recruiters’ fees that often mean workers going into debt even before they arrive in Singapore, and the many ways employers here circumvent regulations. It quotes Jolovan Wham, Executive Director of HOME as saying “It all comes down to the government’s attitude towards workers and labor. This has always been a pro-business and pro-employer government. This is why the laws are not strong enough to provide protection.”

Injured workers are particularly vulnerable, especially when employers try to avoid their legal obligation to pay for medical attention. A spokesman for TWC2 told CNN: “There are cases where they have been locked up or sent to outpatient for serious injury.”

For this story, CNN managed to speak to the boss of UTR, a repatriation company regarding accusations that in doing what they do, they help employers in furthering their abusive behaviour. It also cites the US State Department’s report:

The 2011 U.S. Government “Trafficking in Persons Report” asserts agencies and employers in Singapore find ways to “mask” illegal fees. The report said “exorbitant fees are sometimes the result of multiple layers of sub-contracting to smaller agencies and individual recruiters, commissions paid to Singaporean agencies.”

TWC2 is an organization that is dedicated to assisting low-wage migrant workers when they are in difficulty. We are motivated by a sense of fairness and humanity, though our caseload often exceeds our
means.

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