SINGAPORE: Migrant worker advocacy groups have welcomed the new requirement for employers in three sectors to show proof of acceptable accommodation before they are allowed to bring new non-Malaysian work permit holders into Singapore.
But there needs to be continuous inspections to ensure that workers stay at the declared accommodation and that conditions in the accommodation have not deteriorated, some of the groups said.
The requirement, which applies to the construction, marine shipyard and process sectors, will start on Sep 19, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said on Monday (Sep 11).
In response to CNA’s queries, MOM said on Wednesday that dormitories are at full capacity amid the increased inflow of work permit holders into Singapore to meet sector needs. More migrant workers are being housed in non-dormitory accommodation, it added.
GOOD FIRST STEP, MORE CHECKS REQUIRED
Ms Dipa Swaminathan, founder of charity ItsRainingRaincoats, said that requiring employers to provide proof of accommodation is a good first step, but more needs to be done.
«I think it’s definitely a step in the right direction. I’m very happy that MOM is thinking proactively about the living conditions of the migrant workers who are due to come to Singapore,» she told CNA.
«My only concern here is that there must be ongoing monitoring, because it’s very easy to show MOM some proof of accommodation for the workers, which looks very good, which looks very respectable and clean, and offers decent living conditions,» she added.
«But who is to know that a month after the workers come here that (it) is not going to change?»
Ms Dipa said that the workers could be relocated or other workers could be moved into the accommodation. She added that while regulations are a «first start», there needs to be «continuous monitoring» of accommodation for migrant workers.
Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) said that greater clarity is needed on how authorities ensure that workers reside at the declared accommodation.
«Greater enforcement is always welcome, and in fact, overdue. But we have yet to see details as to what the verification process will be, and how, for example, MOM will ensure the workers will in fact be staying at the location declared by the employers,» said TWC2 president Debbie Fordyce.
She added that there «seems to be little preventing employers from moving workers to a cheaper accommodation once the worker has entered the country».
MOM told CNA that additional verification checks, including in-person inspections, may be conducted for non-dormitory accommodation such as private residential units. This is to ensure that they are not overcrowded and that the required documents are in order.
«MOM will continue to perform unannounced checks in dormitories and other housing types to ensure that workers are housed in safe and proper accommodation, and at the residential addresses declared by their employers,» said the ministry.