As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to devastate, our foreign blue collar workers have been disproportionately affected. Given the close proximity in which they are forced to live, it comes as no surprise that it is a hotbed for a pandemic.
Most Singaporeans have been aghast at the information that is now being unveiled for the world to see of how our foreign workers really live. Some however, have made downright ignorant, racist, bigoted and illogical comments.
Recently, Chinese broadsheet Lianhe Zaobao published an article which made the ignorant assumption that it was the migrant workers’ poor personal hygiene that resulted in the bad living conditions. The columnist wrote:
“They (foreign workers) leave their hometowns to find a living far away, but their lifestyle habits will accompany them – such as the practice of using their hands to eat, resting under the trees or on fields, or gathering with their friends to drink beet and chat, etc.”
“Those who live in the countryside may see insects such as lizards and cockroaches as normal; city people will scream when they see such a sight” (translated from Chinese text)
Talk about victim shaming and blaming! It is irresponsible for the mainstream media to even allow this kind of ignorance airtime!
This article was rightly called out by the Editor-in-Chief of Singapore Policy Journal Yong Han Poh who said on her own Facebook (FB) page that she found the article “exasperating”.
In the face of reports which have surfaced of how workers forced into lock down have to live in unsanitary and crowded living conditions where kitchens are infested with cockroaches and toilets are overflowing, it is unbelievable that some Singaporeans have the temerity to blame the foreign workers?
In reality, they should be blaming us! It is understood that rubbish bins at the S11 dormitory was also flooded with garbage and waste.
Given that they are locked down and unable to come out, how are they expected to keep things clean? Especially when there are so many of them forced to live so closely together!
For Singaporeans who are under the illusion that foreign workers are somehow to blame for the coronavirus should really (borrowing a Singlish phrase) “Wake up their Idea!” The foreign workers were completely left out by the government initially.
They were not given masks and their healthcare services were effectively reduced! Plus they are forced to live in each others faces in cramped shared dormitories with shared toilets and kitchen facilities. How are they expected to self isolate properly?
For those who are of the misguided opinion that they are less clean should ask themselves how realistic it is to keep pristine accommodation that is so overcrowded in the first place. And for those who have issue with foreign workers sitting in open spaces, please ask yourselves where else they are supposed to go? We pay them so little so its not as if they can go and have a meal in Ion mall right?
To those who are determined to blame the foreign workers, it is perhaps their refusal to see an inconvenient truth — that if we happened to be born in another country, we could very well be in the foreign workers’ shoes. We aren’t better. Not in any way shape or form. We were just fortunate to be born into the opportunities that a first world country affords.
So, please, get off your high horse and face reality. For too long, the government — and by extension us have — enabled the mistreatment of our blue collar foreign workers.
Now that they are bearing the brunt of our collective indifference, let’s just put our hands up, apologise and reflect. Turning around to blame the victim is completely illogical and exposes the lack of humanity on our part!