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38,000 sign petition for migrant workers, saying they are akin to “sitting ducks trapped in a ticking ‘time bomb’

The petition was started by Singaporean, Kokila Annamalai a week ago and seeks to address some of the pressing issues in relation to these workers

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More than 38,000 netizens have signed a petition calling for more protection for migrant workers from the Covid-19 virus.

The petition, started by one Kokila Annamalai a week ago, shared it with the hopes that Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo would take notice.

In that time, 38,003 netizens have signed the petition calling to ‘Protect our migrant workers from Covid-19’.

In her petition, Ms Annamalai raised several key concerns, some of which have already been addressed in the past few days.

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She asked that their living conditions be better taken care of, explaining that “in current dormitory set-ups, which are overcrowded; There has been consistent evidence of unsanitary and very poorly-ventilated environments”.

Workers often do not get their meals on time, and there is a shortage of face masks, she wrote.

“Fear and anxiety are high among workers, who aren’t allowed to leave their dorms (or their cramped rooms, in the case of the dormitories gazetted as isolation areas). Many feel akin to sitting ducks trapped in a ticking ‘time bomb’”, Ms Annamalai wrote.

Adding that the work and visa status of workers who have not been allowed to return to Singapore are unclear, Ms Annamalai asked, “Will they be paid their wages? Will they still have jobs? When can they return? Conversely, there are concerns about workers who have been laid off but are unable to leave Singapore — how will they be taken care of?”

Men look out from the balcony of a dormitory used by foreign workers at Cochrane Lodge 2, which has been made an isolation area to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Singapore on April 15, 2020. – Singapore won praise for keeping its outbreak in check in the early stages of the fight against the COVID-19 novel coronavirus but has seen a surge in cases this month, with many linked to foreign workers’ dormitories. (Photo by ROSLAN RAHMAN / AFP)

Stating the above issues, her petition called on the government to “put together a comprehensive and specific list of measures to address these concerns, and allow the public to monitor their effectiveness through giving journalists and independent experts access to observe, evaluate and report on the progress in these areas”.

Earlier this week (Apr 15), Minister Josephine Teo announced that a three-pronged strategy has been adopted to arrest the spread of the coronavirus in foreign worker dormitories. She added that the approach included preventing clusters from forming in non-infected dormitories, as well as moving essential workers out of factory-converted dormitories, so that isolation facilities can be created with the vacated space.

It was also announced that most of the foreign workers in essential services living in purpose-built dormitories – about 7,000 of them – have moved into 18 alternative living areas such as military camps, floating hotels, sports halls and vacant Housing Board blocks.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Health announced yesterday (Apr 17) that the significant increase in cases among workers living in dorms is in line with its efforts to test and isolate infected workers, as testing for Covid-19 has been stepped up. /TISG

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