The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) sent letters to two repatriation companies on November 18, 2011, putting them on notice not to abet any employer avoiding payment of wages and other amounts owed to workers, or preventing the workers making claims under the Work Injury Compensation Act or the Employment Act, reported the Straits Times, December 15, 2011.

The two companies were 1 Ace Repatriation and UTR Services.

The letter also made it clear that the firms should not withhold any property of foreign workers, including passports, work permit cards, special passes, mobile phones and wallets.

1 Ace Repatriation told the Straits Times that it was winding up its business. UTR Services, however, asserted that “the letter is not an issue as we have always followed the rules.”

The newspaper also noted that:

These firms were again thrust into the spotlight after Minister of State for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin warned in July that his ministry will not put up with illegal practices, such as repatriating workers without settling their pay.

TWC2 Vice president Noorashikin Abdul Rahman told the Straits Times that the ministry’s interest in this matter was “a step in the right direction” but called for repatriation firms to be outlawed altogether, adding: “The fact that repatriation services are legal leaves foreign workers vulnerable to being repatriated even when they have valid reasons to remain in Singapore.”

Migrant workers regularly report of bosses threatening to use repatriation agents to send them home if they complain about abuses. That they know of real instances when their colleagues have been so despatched without having their claims settled only add teeth to such threats. Too many workers are cowed by threats and fail to seek fair redress.

Some workers approaching TWC2 have personally been held against their will until a lucky escape; see Ganging up. Another story can be found here: Chinese national cheated, detained and threatened by repatriation agents.