Straits Times reader Alex Tang, in a letter published by the newspaper in its print Forum (16 August 2012) asked a number of questions about workers placed on Special Passes because of “cheating” by employers.

Queries on special-pass foreigners

There are many foreigners who are holding special passes because they were cheated by their employers or agents.

Their passports are impounded and they are not allowed to seek employment while waiting for the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) to prosecute the errant employers and agents.

They have to remain in Singapore as witnesses against the employers or agents until the cases are over. They are put under “house arrest” and are required to report weekly at the MOM to have their stay extended.

How long can these workers survive without work? Where do they stay? How long does it take, on average, to close each case? And are there many cases that need more than a year to close?

Alex Tang

— Straits Times Forum, 16 August 2012

The Ministry of Manpower’s reply was published on 22 August. It gave general answers, but did not provide specific answers to the last three questions that Alex Tang asked.

Who’s required to stay for cases: MOM

Foreigners assisting the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) with investigations into employment-related offences are issued with special passes which legitimise their stay in Singapore (“Queries on special-pass foreigners” by Mr Alex Tang; last Thursday).

Only those who are key witnesses are required to remain in Singapore till the case is concluded.

We facilitate the repatriation of those who do not wish to stay after they have given their statements to us and are no longer required for investigations.

At no point do we put special pass holders under “house arrest”.

Special pass holders are allowed and encouraged to take up employment either on a new two-year work pass or on a temporary basis under the Temporary Jobs Scheme till the conclusion of their cases.

We ensure that all investigations are conducted expeditiously.

Depending on the nature and complexity of the cases, some may require a longer investigation period.

Farah Abdul Rahim (Ms)
Corporate Communications
Ministry of Manpower

— Straits Times Forum, 22 Aug 2012.