One Day Out: Restore Freedom Of Movement For Male Migrant Workers

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About:

As of 5 October 2020, the number of COVID-positive cases within dormitory residents has fallen drastically, from a high of more than 1000 cases per day in late April to an average of 7 cases per day for the past week. Although many male migrant workers are now able to exit their dormitories for work, we understand that their mental health continues to be poor, as many have not stepped outside of their dormitories apart from work reasons. Hence, we sign this petition to urge the Government to work towards providing all male migrant workers with “One Day Out” of their dormitories per week, and to communicate a timeline for the easing of movement restrictions. We hope for this petition to be indicative of a show of support from the wider Singaporean public, for the Government to continue with their efforts to ease movement restrictions for our male migrant workers. 

Aims of the Petition:

We, the undersigned, urge for the Government to:

  1. Provide male migrant workers with “One Day Out” of their dormitories per week on their rest days, at Recreation Centers (RCs) and eventually beyond, and communicate how this can be achieved to all workers.
  2. Communicate a timeline, where possible, for how freedom of movement will be restored for all male migrant workers outside of their dormitories, when dormitory cases remain sustained at low numbers of less than 10 cases a day*.
  3. Communicate their vision of care for the mental health of male migrant workers, for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.

*Based on Phase 2 reopening guidelines for the community.

Background:

Since the Circuit Breaker period in early April, a movement control order has been imposed on male migrant workers living in dormitories, restricting freedom of movement outside their dormitories. Since Phase 1, only workers who had been approved for work were allowed to leave their dormitories.

On 3 August 2020, then-Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad stated in a Facebook post that the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) would gradually ease movement restrictions stipulated within the Employment of Foreign Manpower Regulations when “the rate of infection in both the community and dormitories is sustained at a low level over a period of time.” On 6 August 2020, MOM subsequently explained in a Straits Times article that steps were being taken to ease movement curbs, including staggered times for workers to leave their rooms to access common areas. MOM also indicated that when community and dormitory cases had been sustained at low levels for a period of time, workers would be able to leave their dormitories for recreational centres (RCs) "in a measured and safe manner". 

On 2 September 2020, MOM organised a day out for 50 foreign workers at Labrador Park and HortPark, and indicated that they will continue to explore more recreational options. As of 9 October 2020, we understand that access to RCs for male migrant workers is still being expanded. Many migrant workers also remain unaware of how to apply to visit the RCs through the SGWorkPass application. Hence, a significant number of workers remain unable to leave their dormitories except for work reasons.

Impact:

We understand that movement restrictions were initially imposed to safeguard the health of Singaporeans and male migrant workers alike. Although we appreciate MOM’s current efforts to ease movement curbs for male migrant workers, we remain concerned that many have not stepped outside of their dormitories apart from work reasons. This is despite the number of COVID-positive cases falling significantly, greatly reducing the risk of transmission between dormitory residents and the rest of the public.

The basis for our concerns is our understanding that the mental health of male migrant workers continues to remain poor, in part due to restrictions on their movement. Some workers yearn to head to green spaces, to enjoy a breath of fresh air - which they have not had for the past 6 months. Others have shared their anxieties over job security and income loss, or are experiencing additional stress assuaging concerns from family members back home. Many are finding their rooms stifling places to remain in, dealing with their worries while staring at the same four walls. Please visit our website to find out more about how the mental health of workers has been impacted.

We understand that we have the support of our political office holders in looking after male migrant workers. Then-Minister of State for Manpower Zaqy Mohamad had expressed that “it is imperative for us” to manage the mental health of male migrant workers. On 23 April 2020, in his message to the nation, Prime Minister Lee had reinforced to our migrant workers that “we will care for you, just like we care for Singaporeans”. In light of the immense sacrifices our migrant workers have made for our collective public health in the past year, we urge the Government to work towards providing all male migrant workers with “One Day Out” per week for recreation, and to communicate the timeline for restoring freedom of movement for male migrant workers where possible. We continue to support the Government's existing efforts in easing movement restrictions, and look forward to the day where male migrant workers can move freely among us.

Thank you.

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