SINGAPORE — More variety shows and sporting events are in store for foreign workers here, as the Migrant Workers Centre (MWC) yesterday pledged to plan more recreational activities for the community.
But although they welcomed the move, some foreign workers still prefer to head to their usual hangouts to meet up with friends.
In the aftermath of last week’s riot, there have been calls for more to be done to meet migrant workers’ social needs. Migrant workers’ rights group Transient Workers Count Too, for instance, had called for new built spaces with amenities and shelter to be created, as migrant workers are sometimes denied the use of public spaces.
Speaking at Penjuru Recreation Centre, one of five locations where 50,000 workers in total enjoyed a day of festivities organised by the MWC to celebrate International Migrants Day, MWC Chairman Yeo Guat Kwang said: “We are prepared to work with all our partners to widen our outreach by organising more activities for the workers … Hopefully with this, we can establish more regular and wider channels for all to communicate.”
He added: “More importantly, what we want to send across is … let’s promote better integration and let’s promote better understanding for them to understand our social norms and laws for them to comply. Because of the different cultural backgrounds they have, we may need more time to convey to them that Singapore is different.”
Last week, employers and dormitory operators advised their foreign workers to stay away from Little India over the weekend, after the Government imposed a raft of “cooling off” measures, including a blanket ban on alcohol sale and consumption in the precinct, a suspension of bus services ferrying workers there, as well as increased police patrols.
While many workers complied and remained in their dormitories or chose to visit shops and malls near their quarters instead, some still made their way to Little India because “it’s the company, not the beer” that mattered, they said. One of them, construction worker Mr Veeriyan, 30, said: “I won’t stay in my dorm even if there are activities because I meet my friends here to talk.”
Bangladeshi Zahirul Huq Mostafa Kamal, 28, a process maintenance supervisor who stays in a Tuas dormitory, said: “Our boss sent leaflets telling us not to go to Little India or Serangoon. Today no bus, so we are taking the MRT (to go to Boon Lay).”
A Chinese national construction worker who was with his friends at a coffee shop in Geylang yesterday said he would be keen to participate if more programmes were organised for migrant workers.
“We are for the idea … we will be keen to participate if, for example, there are performances.”
Mr Yeo yesterday also said more could be done to address migrant workers’ needs, for example, by creating a buddy system in dormitories. Likening it to Residents’ Committees, he said this will help build up a network and facilitate communication between workers and employers.