SINGAPORE: More migrant workers have flocked to a recreation centre at Soon Lee Road in the last six months as an alternative to enclaves like Little India and Geylang.
The Singapore Contractors Association — which runs the centre — noted a 20 per cent increase since December, when the riot broke out in Little India.
At the recreation centre, foreign workers can get a haircut, shop for groceries, and bond with friends over a game of cricket or some beer.
And more workers are making use of the facilities rather than head to places like Little India.
On average, some 7,000 workers now visit the centre on a weeknight and it can swell to more than 10,000 on weekends.
Dr Ho Nyok Yong, president of the Singapore Contractors Association, said: “It’s a good place for diverting the workers from traditional places like Little India, Geylang and Golden Mile.”
He added that the location of a recreation centre is important and the centres have to be distributed evenly islandwide “to minimise the transport from one place to another place.
“Then the worker also saves on bus fare, or MRT fare — then they will be happier,” he said.
With more workers heading to the recreation centre, the Singapore Contractors Association said it now organises activities such as singing competitions or game tournaments about once or twice a week — an increase from once a month previously.
Observers said recreation centres benefit those living in the older dormitories, which may not have as many services.
Bernard Menon, executive director of the Migrant Workers’ Centre, said: “The older dormitories tend to be a little bit bare when you talk about services and amenities like that. They tend to maximise their space for the bed spaces.”
Mr Menon added that recreation centres improve the living conditions of the workers.
He said: “The direction is self-sufficiency. I think what the authorities want to do is to make sure that wherever we house migrant workers, that they have a variety of lifestyle options in close proximity to where they live.
“MWC has long been saying that we don’t want to see a situation where migrant workers are prevented from going to Little India, Geylang, Peninsular (Plaza) — we think that would be a little bit dangerous.
“However, we need to make sure there are many options, many alternatives, available to migrant workers. It cannot be that the only place you go to do a certain thing is Little India.
“So it’s part of building the kind of society we want, treating migrant workers in the way they should be treated. After all they come here and fulfil a very important purpose for us.”
The government has said it will double the number of recreation centres for foreign workers from four to eight by the end of next year.