The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has disputed the claim that there are over a 100 Malaysian workers who were homeless in Singapore as they could not afford to rent a room or bed, in a statement released on Thursday (3 Dec).
The claim that work pass holders from Malaysia were sleeping rough in Singapore arose after Malaysian publication The New Straits Times published an article entitled “Homeless Malaysians in Singapore” on 22 Nov. The article quoted 34-year-old Shahruddin Hael Helmy Mohd Noh who has been working in Singapore for six years.
Claiming that over 100 Malaysian work pass holders in Singapore were homeless and living on the streets, Mr Shahruddin said that the average monthly income of S$800 to S$1,400 is insufficient for work pass holders to rent a bed, priced from S$300 to S$500 per month, or a room with rental prices between S$700 and S$1,200.
Pointing out that the amount also does not include food and transport expenses, Mr Shahruddin reportedly said: “Some of us only left with S$100 (RM304) to last for a month, after sending about S$700 (RM2,134) for families in Malaysia and S$300 (RM915) for bed rental.”
Claiming that many Malaysian workers consume instant noodles for all three meals to save money, Mr Shahruddin added: “During my free time, I will look for unsold bread from the bread truck to give to my homeless friends.”
Revealing that Malaysians in Singapore have opted to stay here since they were the sole breadwinners in their families, he said: “If they return to Malaysia, they might face difficulties to find jobs during this difficult time. How are they going to support their families then?
“They will need to undergo screening and pay for the 14-day mandatory quarantine in Malaysia. I was told that we need to pay RM2,200 for both quarantine accommodation and testing for Covid-19.
“Not only they would have to quit their jobs (as per regulations by some employers), they will need to fork out a lot of money for the quarantine and testing. So, they choose to stay.”
MOM engaged Mr Shahruddin to verify his claim and obtain more information from him on two occasions, on 23 and 27 Nov, but the work pass holder was unable to provide information such as specific names and contact details of the homeless Malaysian workers he claimed to have encountered.
The ministry said that Mr Shahruddin admitted that he never spoke directly to any of these workers and cannot confirm if they were indeed homeless. He also said that he did not know of any Malaysian worker who does not have a place to stay.
Revealing that Mr Shahruddin said he did not tell the reporter from NST that “over 100 Malaysians there had become homeless,” MOM said that the Inter-Agency Taskforce conducts routine inspections and checks for rough sleepers across the island to refer them to the relevant agencies for assistance.
MOM said that the taskforce, which comprises of the police, MOM officers and Ministry of Social and Family Development officers, did not find any work pass holders sleeping in the streets at the locations Mr Shahruddin identified during an islandwide search on Friday night (26 Nov).
The ministry added that it renders assistance to rough sleepers and that it will ask employers to find immediate lodging for work pass holders who are found sleeping in the open or house them in the care of the Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC) in the interim if the employer is not able to do so.
Sharing that it has also established links with various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to refer any work pass holders found sleeping rough, MOM said that it has not received any referrals from the NGOs in the past few months.
MOM reminded all employers of their obligations to their foreign employees and to ensure that they have proper accommodation during their stay in Singapore. It also urged members of public who know of any work pass holders facing accommodation issues to refer them to MOM or the MWC’s 24-hour hotline at 6536 2692 for further assistance.