By Daryl Loh, based on an interview in October 2017

Ashiqur and Anisur are desperate. Time is running out. The Ministry of Manpower has told them their Special Passes will not be renewed after another two weeks if they cannot find new jobs. But how are they to find new jobs? They have no contacts, and no networks in the country. If they fail to do so, they will have to return to their country.

Ashiqur (above, left) has been trying hard to find employment. He has applied thrice, but his application has failed all three times.

The prospective employer’s first application was rejected by MOM because, according to Ashiqur, MOM said  “company got problem”. It is not clear what problem it is. In fact, the friend that introduced this job for him also asked for an additional $3,000 for him to get the job.

In his second and third applications, he went for interviews with the company and the opportunity was promising. “Boss like me, apply [Work Permit] for me,” Ashiqur recounts. The employer put in applications for him, but both applications eventually failed as well. When queried about the repeated application failures, Ashiqur explains that MOM’s reply was that “Boss make mistake, some paper didn’t submit”.

While MOM also provided a list of agents, they did not seem to be effective. Many agents have told him “I try lah, but I don’t know lah”, and nothing has been heard from these agents since.

This has left both of them dejected and worried for what is to come.

Ashiqur confides that he is “feeling very sad, try my best”, but his efforts have been in vain. He has exhausted all his options, and his stay in the country is in jeopardy simply due to the short time given by MOM and the employers’ application errors.

Anisur (above. middle) also shares that they have kept these problems to themselves. Their families do not know of this: “Bluffing family, say salary never come, never come”.

If they are still unable to find a job in the following weeks, their days of ‘bluff’ will soon be over.

The fact that they’re on Special Passes tell us that their previous jobs did not go well. This has put them in precarious financial positions, hence their despondency now when they can’t find new jobs.

Ashiqur and Anisur both worked for the same company, SJH Trading Pte Ltd. Ashiqur arrived in Singapore in April 2017, while Anisur arrived about three months later towards the end of June. But just 15 days after Anisur joined the company, their Work Permits were cancelled.

Prior to taking up their jobs and while still in Bangladesh, both of them received offers from their contacts to come to Singapore, claiming that Singapore “have good company, if can come”. To secure their jobs with SJH, they had to pay $7,000 – $8,000 each. Ashiqur had to pay these fees directly to the company boss — he says he even has a video of himself in discussion with the boss over this.  For employers to take such kickbacks is illegal. For his part, Anisur sent the money to Singapore through a Bangladeshi friend, Mamul, and it is not clear where the money finally ended up.

In his three months with SJH, Ashiqur was seconded to other companies as ‘supply labour’. There, he did whatever work required of him, such as painting, cleaning, “everything can do”.

As for Anisur, he quickly found that the job promised was soon non-existent. After just fifteen days, the boss cancelled their Work Permits, claiming that there was no more work.

It has taken three months for MOM to resolve their complaints about unpaid salary, and even then they didn’t even get the full amounts owed. Ashiqur settled for $500 less than the salary he should have got, while Anisur received almost $400 less.

In the interim, without any income, they have had little choice but to borrow $1,500 from friends to cover their expenses in Singapore.  While they have remained in the company’s accommodation in South Tuas, even basic necessities such as food are not regularly provided. “Company no give food, sometimes have, sometimes don’t have.”

“Everything borrow money, bus card, food, phone card. How long already, no job, nothing.”

And now, since they’ve been unsuccessful at finding new jobs (at least so far), they face the prospect of repatriation. Once back in Bangladesh, they’ll have to answer for the thousands of dollars they raised from family and friends to pay the agent fee. In Anisur’s words, “No have job, nothing, how settle?”

As at 22 December 2017, Ashiqur is in a new job. He was eventually successful in finding one. Anisur however appears to have gone home, his phone no longer in service.