Migrant Worker Says They Should Not Be Treated Like “Criminals” In Open Letter To MOM

When Covid-19 hit migrant workers’ dormitories early last year, the living conditions of workers here in Singapore were put under the spotlight.

1 year on, it seems like we still have much to work on in this department.

On Saturday (16 Oct), a migrant worker and award-winning poet, Zakir Hossain Khokan, took to Facebook to share an open letter to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).

Westlite dorm letterSource

Addressing recent incidents surrounding riot police, food sanitation, and delays in Covid-19 treatment, Mr Zakir expressed his hopes for more respect to be accorded to migrant workers.

Poet addresses MOM minister regarding living conditions at dormitory

Mr Zakir addressed his open letter to Minister of Manpower Dr Tan See Leng, asking him to not call migrant workers at Westlite Jalan Tukang dormitory “brothers”.

“If we are truly your brothers why do you surround us with riot squad and policemen?”, he asked.

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He also said that brothers would not allow their workplace bosses to treat them as such.

Mr Zakir went on to mention how the food they are given is infested with flies and maggots.

He then talked about poor Covid-19 protocols. Infected and non-infected individuals live in the same room, seemingly waiting to get infected and maybe even die if help doesn’t arrive in time.

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Mr Zakir asked if the minister is aware that some even take to sleeping on the cold hard floors in the corridor to protect themselves from the virus.

Westlite dorm letterSource

Migrant worker says in letter that they deserve respect

Mr Zakir then put out a hard-hitting statement,

Minister we are not your brothers, we are only your work slaves!

Mr Zakir questioned why armoured vehicles were sent in instead of ambulances and why soldiers and policemen appeared instead of doctors and nurses.

Addressing Dr Tan, he said, brothers do not treat each other like “criminals”.

Migrant workers are here to build Singapore’s industries, infrastructures, and homes, and Singapore must not forget, they are workers, not work slaves, he said.

He ended off his post saying the least the minister can do is accord them some respect and treat them decently.

Mr Zakir signed off the letter as being from workers from Westlite Dormitory at Jalan Tukang.

Riot police deployed to dorm on 13 Oct

Zakir’s post is referring to the incident when riot police were called to Westlite Jalan Tukang dormitory on 13 Oct.

Riot Police Deployed At Jurong Dorm After Claims About Covid-19 Breaches, MOM Investigating

This occurred after residents confronted management about the poor living conditions and problematic Covid-19 protocols, reported The Straits Times (ST).

At the time, workers raised their voices but did not resort to violence.

Besides that, there were complaints about the poor hygiene and quality of food for workers.

Westlite dorm letterSource

Sembcorp Marine, which employs most of these workers, has since issued an apology.

Sembcorp Marine Apologises To Jurong Dorm Workers Over Food Complaints, Takes Caterer To Task

They added that the external caterer has been “taken to task”.

Westlite acknowledged that the spike in infections have caused delays in moving affected workers to appropriate facilities.

MOM later said they are aware of the allegations against the dormitory and are working closely with them to deal with the issues.

Hope MOM and dormitory will do right by workers

The frustrations and fear of workers at the dormitory is understandable.

They are here to work and earn an honest living, and should be treated with proper decency.

Hopefully, MOM and the dormitory wiill do right by them and promptly rectify the current problems at hand.

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Featured image adapted from Weixin, Sham Ogy on Facebook, and Amrakajona Zakir on Facebook.