Police respond to 3 dorm incidents on Friday
In 3 1/2 hours on Friday (July 24) morning, the police responded to three incidents involving foreign workers residing in dormitories.
In the first incident, a 37-year-old worker from India was found motionless at 512 Old Choa Chu Kang Road and was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.
In a statement to The New Paper on Friday night, the police said they were alerted to a case of unnatural death at about 7.15am and do not suspect foul play.
In the second incident, a 19-year-old worker from India was seen standing on the rooftop of a dormitory block.
In videos posted on Facebook, he is seen looking down at the foot of the block from the edge of the rooftop before two men pull him to safety.
The police said they received a call for assistance at 506 Old Choa Chu Kang Road at about 10.25am. The worker was apprehended under Section 7 of the Mental Health (Care and Treatment Act).
In the third incident, a 40-year-old worker from China stood on the railing of his block and appeared to be threatening to jump.
A video circulating online shows the man, clad in a polo tee and long pants, standing precariously on the railing and clinging to the railing above him.
The police said they received a call for assistance at 29 Senoko South Road at about 10.45am. The worker was also apprehended under Section 7 of the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) Act.
The manager of the dormitory, who wanted to be known only as Mr Andy, told TNP the man was agitated because he had purchased a flight ticket to return to China, but was told he had not received approval from the authorities to do so.
It is not clear when his flight was scheduled for.
Mr Andy said the worker was taken to the Institute of Mental Health for assessment.
On Friday night, a spokesman for the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) told TNP it was aware of the three incidents.
He said MOM expressed its deepest condolences to the deceased’s family.
The spokesman added: “We have informed his family members and employer, as well as the embassy. We are also working with the worker’s employer and the Migrant Workers’ Centre to provide assistance to his family.”
On the other two incidents, the MOM spokesman said the dormitory operator and FAST (Forward Assurance and Support Teams) teams on site managed to calm the workers down and bring them to safety. They are now in a safe and stable condition.
The spokesman added MOM advises all workers not to put themselves in harm’s way if they encounter problems.
They can call the Migrant Workers’ 24-hour helpline at 6536 2692, or reach out to MOM via its feedback form (www.mom.gov.sg/efeedback) if they require assistance.
The MOM spokesman said: “If they act rashly, it will make it more difficult for MOM to be able to assist them or to help solve their problems sooner.”
Friday’s incidents come after a worker from China threatened to jump from his block at the S11 Dormitory @ Punggol on Wednesday (July 22).
MOM said on its Facebook page on Thursday investigations revealed that worker had purchased a flight ticket by himself and became agitated when his employer did not grant him approval to return home.
Friday’s fatal incident is the third known case of an unnatural death involving a foreign worker since April.
On May 15, a Bangladeshi worker was found motionless in his dormitory at 31 Kranji Crescent and was pronounced dead at the scene by paramedics.
On April 23, Indian national Alagu Periyakarrupan, 46, was found motionless at a staircase landing in Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, where he was receiving treatment for Covid-19.
In recent months, migrant worker rights groups have called for more attention to be paid to the mental health of foreign workers.
On Friday, a spokesman for the Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics told TNP: “Workers are extremely stressed and anxious mainly about providing for their families. Many have lost their jobs, or worry if they will still have one.”
Former nominated MP Anthea Ong, who has spoken on mental health issues in Parliament several times before, said: “It’s coming to four months since migrant workers were mostly confined to their dorms, and such protracted confinement can have a serious impact on a person’s mental well-being.”
The founder of social enterprise, Hush TeaBar, added: “Think about how we felt ourselves during the circuit breaker and how we saw a spike in domestic violence and mental health issues. And that’s when we could still go out for essential errands. The workers are not able to do that.”
On Friday, The Straits Times reported that all migrant worker dormitories will be cleared of Covid-19 by Aug 7.
The only exceptions will be 17 standalone blocks in purpose-built dormitories that will serve as quarantine facilities, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the multi-ministry task force combating the Covid-19 outbreak.
Samaritans of Singapore: 1800-221-4444
Singapore Association for Mental Health: 1800-283-7019
Migrant Workers’ Centre (24-hour helpline): 6536-2692
Transient Workers Count Too: 6297-7564
Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics: 6341-5535
Healthserve: +65 31384443