Singapore

MPs say residents understand why workers are moved to estates

This article is more than 12 months old

But some express concerns about workers squabbling and littering after eating

At the former Serangoon Junior College campus, work has started to turn the building into a temporary home for migrant workers.

The facility at Upper Serangoon Road is one of 36 sites earmarked to house healthy workers in the short to medium term, to reduce crowding in dormitories amid the Covid-19 outbreak. Some of these are located in the middle of residential estates.

Workers at these sites will go to work using transport arranged by their employers and will not be allowed to leave the premises on their days off. Instead, facilities such as minimarts, barber services and entertainment options will be set up at most sites.

MPs interviewed said most residents understand the reasons behind this move, adding that steps have been taken to minimise contact between workers and the public.

But some residents fear that security or cleanliness in their neighbourhoods may be affected by migrant workers moving in.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary Baey Yam Keng said he hopes residents will not have the "not in my backyard" mindset towards the workers. In 2009, Serangoon Gardens residents had objected vociferously to plans to build a foreign workers' dormitory there.

Hougang MP Png Eng Huat noted that workers housed in the Serangoon JC site will observe safe distancing measures, and strict entry and exit rules will be put in place.

"I am quietly confident Hougang residents will have no major issues with these temporary residents moving in," said the Workers' Party MP.

Retiree Hia Nui Kwang, 67, who lives near the site, is fine with having foreign workers there as long as they are not sick.

"I would feel uncomfortable if it is used to house foreign workers who have fallen ill," he said.

In some areas, residents have put together care packs for workers moving in.

Tampines GRC MP Desmond Choo said: "People have been wanting to write notes of encouragement and donate food, sanitiser and things for daily use. We are getting all sorts of requests."

But not everyone is comfortable with workers living nearby.

A 53-year-old owner of a real estate company, who wanted to be known only as Audrey, said: "It's quite a large group of workers - if they're unhappy about anything, they may quarrel and it could lead to unrest in the neighbourhood."

Housewife Serene Yeo, 50, was concerned that workers would eat at nearby void decks but not clear the food up afterwards.

Nominated MP Anthea Ong, who is part of a volunteer-led initiative to encourage Singaporeans to be more welcoming to relocated migrant workers, said: "What we need to do is to get residents to see (the migrant workers) as human, and not just feel assured that they won't be coming out of their compounds."

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