singapore has contained covid, but migrant workers still face year old restrictions
Singapore – Coronavirus curbs have been significantly restrictive for migrant workers in Singapore. Past 18 months have been under lockdown due to pandemic, restricting the workers inside dormitories even during spare time. Dormitories in Singapore are the house of over 300,000 migrant workers, mainly from South Asia. They share rooms and sleep on bunk beds, a condition contrasting to otherwise prosperous nation.
Though the situation has now eased in Singapore with fully vaccinated people being allowed to visit public establishments, it is an entirely different condition for low wage migrants in the country. Restrictions due to pandemic have forced the migrants to travel only between work and accommodation. “It’s a very painful life… like prison,” said construction site worker Uddin, as he compared his pre-Covid life when he would meet his friends over weekend for coffee, recite poetry and gossip. “We’re only allowed to go to work and home, back and forth, and nowhere else. It’s like living under house arrest,” added the 43-year-old, who has been in Singapore for 13 years and has authored two books about his experiences.
Last year fingers were raised and questions asked when livelihood of migrants living in dormitories first came to forefront due to pandemic living conditions. Government vowed to build new dormitories with modern facilities and space for the thousands of migrant workers in Singapore who have been the backbone of fast paced economy.
But continuing restrictions on workers, who earn from Sg$500 to $1,000 (US$370 to $740) a month, highlights how little anything has changed second year into the pandemic. “Our government doesn’t quite see them as fully human,” said Alex Au, vice-president of migrant rights group Transient Workers Count Too. “Authorities treat the migrants like an economic commodity, and fail to accord them the same rights, the same freedoms that our citizens have,” he added.
Pointing out the psychological and emotional stress migrant workers are experiencing, Uddin said, “This imprisoned lifestyle won’t let a person live a healthy life.”