Jobless, desperate, homeless, and hungry, some of them tried to work illegally and were arrested, jailed, and flogged. Corporal punishment, like the death penalty, still remains a feature of modern Singapore law.
To cap it off, some of these men are not allowed to leave Singapore because the labor ministry—which administers the approximately 900,800 transient migrant workers that comprise more that 40 percent of the island state’s total labor force—requires them to stay to appear as witnesses in a string of court cases.
“They find themselves in a debt trap, having borrowed money to pay agency fees and plane tickets; many continue to borrow money to pay for basic necessities now,” explains Sha Najak from Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2), a small charity which is helping feed the men and championing the cases.
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