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American TV show wrong about Geylang – No need for MOM to build dorms for workers there

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The American TV series, ‘Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders’, featured Singapore in a recent episode.

“The employers (in Singapore) have a hard time finding unskilled workers doing manual labour, so they get migrant workers from other countries to do the menial jobs. But that leaves the Ministry of Manpower with nowhere to put them, so a lot of times as a result, they end up in government dormitories in Geylang, ” said Clara Seger, the senior supervisory special agent in the TV series, portrayed by actress Alana de la Garza.

She also added, “It is the embodiment of income inequality. Singapore has a lot of poverty, human trafficking and a lot of crime.”

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How wrong the Hollywood scriptwriter was.

In fact, MOM does not need to build dormitories in Geylang to house the migrant workers. Many private property owners in Geylang are more than happy to house them, thanks to the PAP government encouraging Singaporeans to rent out their houses so as to fund their own retirement.

To maximise rental incomes, many of these owners will find ways to squeeze as many workers as possible into a unit illegally.

A news article 2 years ago reported that of the 164 apartments and shop houses that SCDF inspected in Geylang, 68 or 41% were found to be illegally housing the workers, exceeding the maximum housing limit.

These illegal units typically house large number of migrant workers in cramped quarters, hindering escape when a fire breaks out. Also, these workers would cook inside their rooms, increasing the chances of fire.

In one incident, a fire broke out and some workers died. It was believed that 30 migrant workers were living inside the apartment at the time.


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