On 7 April, Executive Director of the Humanitarian Organisation for Migrant Economics (HOME), Jolovan Wham was faced with two foreign workers being sent back to their homelands without receiving their salary from their respective employers.
Founded in 2014, HOME is a non-profit organisation committed to providing aid for migrant workers in Singapore, especially those who are abused or exploited. HOME conducts workshops for foreign workers to educate them on their legal rights and also runs a shelter, providing free accommodation for those who are have encountered abuse at their workplace or are currently involved in ongoing investigations.
Mr Wham personally made two separate trips to Changi Airport at night on 7 April to assist two workers, with the first being an Indian foreign worker. “The company repatriated him against his will without paying his salary,” Mr Wham stated in a Facebook update. The worker carried no luggage on his as his employer allegedly did not allow him to pack his things beforehand.
Later that night, Mr Wham accompanied a domestic worker who was being sent back to her home country by her employer against her will. She was also not paid her past one month’s salary.
Despite the employer filing a complaint at a police station later that night due to the worker’s refusal to board the plane, Mr Wham affirmed in another Facebook post that the worker would be taken to the HOME shelter that night. He also planned to speak to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) regarding her situation the next morning.
In response to queries by TOC, Mr Wham has shared that MOM is investigating on the case of the domestic worker and will get back to HOME by this week. As for the indian worker who was sent home without salary, a complaint has been filed with MOM and HOME has also appealed for him to be given the right to switch employer
This comes just after Member of Parliament (MP) for Jalan Besar GRC Ms Denise Phua described foreign workers as “walking time-bombs and public disorder incidents waiting to happen” in Parliament in her speech during the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) budget debate on 7 April. Concerned with the congregations of foreign workers in the Little India area especially after the riot in 2013, she suggested that public areas such as playgrounds and void decks be fenced off to allow for residents to use the spaces.
In response, HOME stated in a Facebook post that her proposed actions would be “discriminatory”. “To label them as “walking time bombs” stigmatises an already marginalised group even further,” the post read. Ms Phua has since taken to her Facebook page on 8 April to apologise for her choice of words.