SINGAPORE – Some 10,600 migrant workers residing at factory-converted dormitories will be the first batch to get care packs containing masks, hand sanitiser, soap and laundry bars, as the Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC) ramps up its efforts to focus on workers in such dormitories.
Compared with purpose-built dormitories, these factory-converted dormitories may lack the resources to implement proper precautionary measures, the MWC and National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) said in a joint statement on Saturday (April 18).
“Given their more urgent needs, MWC will be directing resources and help towards the migrant workers in factory-converted dormitories first, prioritising those dormitories where confirmed Covid-19 cases might arise.”
The non-governmental organisation will focus its efforts on helping affected migrant workers residing in the smaller migrant worker housing facilities and factory-converted dormitories, while still assisting the Government in the larger purpose-built dormitories.
There are more than 1,100 factory-converted dormitories and other smaller migrant worker housing facilities in Singapore that house a total of about 120,000 migrant workers.
Since the circuit breaker was announced, all dormitories have come under stricter movement controls and the MWC has started initiatives aimed at protecting migrant workers who might not be able to go out and purchase essential items during this period.
These efforts include the distribution of reusable masks, hand sanitiser, as well as bath and laundry soap bars.
Working with the Dormitory Association of Singapore and the Ministry of Manpower, MWC has distributed 370,000 reusable masks to all migrant workers living in dormitories across Singapore, the centre and NTUC said in the statement.
Under its latest efforts to help migrant workers in factory-converted dormitories, the centre will be distributing essential supplies in care packs to these workers over the next few weeks.
At the MWC Recreation Centre on Saturday morning, 43 factory-converted dorm operators were presented with care packs that will go to some 10,600 migrant worker residents.
Each care pack contains a reusable mask, two disposable masks, a bottle of 500ml hand sanitiser, a bath soap bar and a laundry soap bar.
MWC is also working on getting additional toiletries such as shaving and oral hygiene kits for the workers.
Among those helping to distribute the first batch of care packs on Saturday was NTUC Secretary-General Ng Chee Meng.
He thanked migrant workers, volunteers who are helping to provide assistance, and dormitory operators, as he assured the operators that MWC will support them in looking after the migrant workers.
On the sidelines of his visit to MWC Recreation Centre, Mr Ng told reporters that government agencies and the MWC are stepping up various measures in the larger dormitories, where there is a wider spread of the coronavirus.
“Today’s effort of giving a care pack to the factory-converted dormitories is to take one step (further) to encourage and take care of our foreign workers in those dorms.”
He added: “We want to make sure they can keep up their personal hygiene while the government agencies are pushing various measures to make sure they keep safe on the ground, whether it is food or proper separation. For these things, we are coordinating with MWC to work with the Government to get the best service and help to migrant workers.”
On the efforts to prepare the care packs, MWC has partnered Temasek Foundation to distribute the 500ml bottles of hand sanitiser. More than 300 volunteers from NTUC, NTUC-affiliated unions and associations, as well as corporate volunteer Harry’s Singapore helped to mix, bottle and pack over 60,000 bottles of hand sanitiser.
The exercise will continue until there are enough such that each migrant worker in the factory-converted dormitories can have his own bottle, the MWC and NTUC said in their statement.
They added that MWC has also managed to procure bath soap and laundry bars to be included in the care packs, with contributions in kind from the public and donations to the Migrants We Care fund-raising campaign, which has garnered more than $892,000 as of early Saturday afternoon.
MWC and NTUC added that the centre has increased its assistance to the migrant community with the help of the MWC Grassroots Network, which comprises some 5,000 grassroots ambassadors who are migrant workers themselves.
Measures to assist migrant workers include educating them on Covid-19 and precautionary measures they can take, searching for and placing stranded Malaysian work permit holders in temporary housing, distributing essential supplies like masks, hand sanitiser and toiletries, and raising funds to help affected migrant workers.
With the circuit breaker measures in place, the MWC has also supported the inter-agency task force to provide support to migrant workers and dormitory operators.
“Leveraging the MWC Grassroots Network, which has ambassadors in all large purpose-built dormitories, MWC has been able to provide timely ground feedback to the task force so that issues and problems can be rectified quickly,” said MWC and NTUC in the statement.
In a Facebook post on Saturday, Manpower Minister Josephine Teo highlighted the importance of coordinating the efforts of non-governmental organisations to help migrant workers amid the pandemic.
She said that the Government is taking a closer look at collaborating with such organisations to look after the well-being of foreign workers and that it has been working closely with the MWC in recent weeks to reach out to and support workers.
It has also started to tap other NGOs such as Itsrainingraincoats, Alliance of General Workers, Geylang Adventures, and HealthServe.
Mrs Teo wrote: “We recognise the potential contributions of non-governmental organisations and deeply appreciate their cooperation. However, we are mindful that it is critical that these efforts are coordinated in an orderly way.”
She added that uncoordinated actions risk the integrity of ground operations and can result in a waste of resources, such as perishable food items that are not distributed in time to workers.
“There is also the need to protect the health and safety of these volunteers,” she said, urging all interested parties to be patient and understanding to work through the inter-agency task force to meet specific needs.
Additional reporting by Timothy David
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