TWC2 volunteers often come across cases where migrant workers are seized and detained by private security and repatriation agencies, on orders of their employers, for the purposes of quick repatriation to their home countries. This often occurs when a worker has lodged a complaint against his employer over salary arrears, or has been injured. Or even when a worker has merely expressed his unhappiness over work conditions leading the employer to anticipate that the worker might soon be lodging a formal complaint at the Ministry of Manpower.
Premature repatriation effectively terminates any follow-up over complaints and is a tempting route for employers to take to evade their legal obligations to their employees.
Detention and confinement by private individuals of another private individual is criminal. The relevant laws can be found in the Penal Code.
It might be argued that employers stand to lose their bonds should employees disappear and become untraceable, and thus the confinement is not wrongful. However, workers who have lodged or are planning to lodge complaints at the Ministry of Manpower have an interest into pursuing their claims, and are not going to vanish or abscond from Singapore. Workers who are injured are obviously desirous of medical treatment; their dispute with their employers is over the employer’s unwillingness to pay for it as provided for under the law. Since there is no imminent risk that the workers will disappear, the bond as justification for confinement cannot stand.
339. Whoever voluntarily obstructs any person, so as to prevent that person from proceeding in any direction in which that person has a right to proceed, is said wrongfully to restrain that person.
340. Whoever wrongfully restrains any person in such a manner as to prevent that person from proceeding beyond certain circumscribing limits, is said “wrongfully to confine” that person.
Punishment for wrongful restraint
341. Whoever wrongfully restrains any person shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one month, or with fine which may extend to $1,500, or with both.
Punishment for wrongful confinement
342. Whoever wrongfully confines any person shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine which may extend to $3,000, or with both.
Wrongful confinement for 3 or more days
343. Whoever wrongfully confines any person for 3 days or more, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years, or with fine, or with both.
Wrongful confinement for 10 or more days
344. Whoever wrongfully confines any person for 10 days or more, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 3 years, and shall also be liable to fine.
[Key words to enable search: security agency, repatriate, deport, deportation, gangsters, thugs]