SINGAPORE: More than a dozen Malaysian workers who were found sleeping rough at Kranji MRT station have been taken to a "temporary relief centre" in Jurong East, the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) said in a statement on Thursday (Mar 19).
The statement follows a TODAY report about how some Malaysian workers who had crossed over to Singapore after a travel restriction kicked in were unable to find accommodation.
On Monday night, Malaysia said it would implement a two-week movement control order from Mar 18, leaving employers in Singapore rushing to secure accommodation for their Malaysian workers.
Under the order, all Malaysians are barred from travelling abroad, including around 300,000 Malaysians who travel across the Woodlands Causeway and Tuas Second Link every day for work.
Since the travel restrictions came into force, MOM and the Singapore Police Force have picked up a “small number of Malaysian workers without short-term accommodation”, MOM said.
Arrangements for longer-term housing for the 14 workers found at Kranji MRT station have been made, MOM added.
READ: Discussions about allowing 300,000 Malaysians to continue working in Singapore under way: Ismail Sabri
VAST MAJORITY PROPERLY ACCOMMODATED
MOM said the TODAY report on the stranded Malaysian workers did not reflect the "full picture of the ground situation".
"On the night of 17 March 2020, a record number of Malaysian workers normally residing in Malaysia crossed over to Singapore," said MOM.
The "vast majority" of them have been properly accommodated by their employers, and are either staying with relatives, friends or colleagues; hotels and dormitories; or public and private housing.
"This was done despite employers and workers being given only 24 hours to react to the movement control order," said MOM.
To date, around 2,000 employers have been assisted by a multi-agency effort headed by the MOM in finding proper accommodation for more than 10,000 Malaysian workers.
To ensure that all Malaysian workers have proper accommodation, MOM is providing employers with a S$50 per day per worker housing support.
Additionally, since the imposition of the travel restriction, MOM and the police have stepped up patrols across Singapore to check for workers who have not managed to secure accommodation, the ministry said.
STRANDED WORKERS NOW AT JURONG EAST
On Thursday, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu posted on Facebook that a team from the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) acted to “shelter the Malaysian workers who were stranded without proper accommodations in Jurong East Sports Hall”.
“At the sports hall, they were registered and given a ready pack which included - toiletries, towel, toilet paper ( yes, one roll each) and a sleeping bag,” she wrote in her post.
They could shower and wash up before leaving for work this morning.
She praised the team, who she said helped to organise the sports hall as housing the Malaysian workers in two days.
MOM is also currently investigating why some of the workers had to sleep rough, its deputy director of planning and organisational development, Lin Shilie, said in a media interview.
Under the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act, employers must find suitable accommodation for their work permit holders, or they will be penalised, he said.
Mr Lin said only a "small number" had to be housed in the sports hall.
Housing them in the sports hall is a “stop-gap” measure as MOM has contacted their employers to make sure that they are rehoused in proper accommodations, he added.
“MOM reminds employers that if they do not need their Malaysian workers at this time, they should make arrangements for them to return to Malaysia,” the ministry said.
MSF said in a separate statement on Thursday evening that the temporary relief centre at Jurong East Sports Hall was put in place the morning after Malaysia’s announcement, to support companies who were not able to react in time to secure housing for their workers.
"While the majority of Malaysian workers have been housed in other accommodations, a small number may require additional support," it said.
"These workers are provided with basic amenities for a brief stay before their companies transfer them to more amenable short-term accommodations," it added.
It also said that MOM will help those companies find housing, if necessary.
HELPING FIRMS FIND ACCOMMODATION
MOM, together with officers from the Singapore Tourism Board, National Development Ministry, the Trade and Industry Ministry and the Housing & Development Board worked overnight after the lockdown was announced by the Malaysian authorities late on Monday.
Among them was Jacqueline Wee from Singapore Tourism Board (STB), who spent about three hours - starting at 10pm - calling hoteliers to ask if they had rooms available for the workers.
The work continued on the next morning, when she and her colleagues spent more than 12 hours helping MOM - the agency fielding requests from employers - source for hotel rooms, while MOM officers from the housing department liaised with dormitory operators.
Employers were matched with the accommodation provider “in a couple of hours” after their enquiry, said Mr Lin, who oversaw the 25-man effort.
Requests are still “trickling in”, he said, assuring there are still rooms available at both dormitories and hotels.
Ms Wee said that the hotels have been very supportive so far, and that those who were unable to take in the workers were at full capacity.
Staff from the Singapore Hotel Association also helped to coordinate requests, she said.