- POSTED: 22 Sep 2013 13:37
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The Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC) has launched its second help centre in Geylang, six months earlier than planned.
SINGAPORE: Migrant workers in Singapore will soon be able to get free legal advice on non-employment issues at a new help centre located in Geylang.
The centre, which was opened on Sunday, is the second of its kind run by the Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC) - a non-government organisation.
The free legal services are being offered by the MWC for the first time. It will be in the form of monthly clinics by the MWC in collaboration with the Pro Bono Services Office of the Law Society of Singapore.
At the launch of the Geylang help-centre, MWC said personal legal issues could have a negative effect on a worker's mental and emotional health, and this could in turn affect his ability to work.
MWC chairman Yeo Guat Kwang said: "We recognise that many of them are not aware of the legal rights, and also our legal procedure. Whenever they have problems, some of them even take matters into their own hands. I think we should avoid this by providing more platforms or channels to assist them."
Mr Yeo said most migrant workers cannot afford to engage lawyers.
A typical consultation could easily cost them at least two months' salary. This is a big amount of money for them as many have also substantial debts to repay.
And migrant workers have welcomed the free legal aid.
"This will help me in future, as I would be able to understand Singapore law better, and to better defend my interest and rights," said Bian Wei Feng, a migrant worker from China.
The Law Society, which is working with the MWC at the new centre, has seen a steady number of migrant workers approaching them for help over the years.
Lim Tanguy, director of Pro Bono Services at The Law Society of Singapore, said: "We run the criminal legal aid scheme, and that is typically for cases where foreign workers (are) in some form of criminal trouble so we have been assisting them with free defense counsel."
The Law Society will be engaging lawyers to volunteer their services for MWC's legal clinic.
The legal advice service in the form of once-a-month clinics will be offered to migrant workers from next month.
Although the frequency may be adjusted based on demand, the Aljunied MRT is just about 100 metres away from the new Migrant Workers' Centre. During weekends, many China workers congregate on the field next to the MRT station. With this new location, more migrant workers can come to the centre for help.
Mr Yeo added MWC will continue to offer advice on employment-related issues.
So far, the Centre has managed more than 7,000 cases, and half of them involved workers from China. It's stepping up outreach efforts to them.
MWC is also beefing up its existing Rangoon Road centre.
It will be relocated to Serangoon Road next year, and the bigger centre will be able to accommodate and help more migrant workers.