As Muslims across Singapore usher in Ramadan under unprecedented circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many adherents islandwide are adjusting to the absence of annual activities such as communal prayers in mosques and breaking fast together.
Migrant workers living in dormitories, a great number of whom are Muslims, are not exempt from the grim impact of the outbreak, as seen in the gazetting of 25 dormitories as isolation areas following the formation of clusters in the said dormitories.
Residents of the dormitories are not allowed to leave the premises — even to purchase fresh food — and to receive food from employers who wish to provide them with such, due to strict regulations put in place by the authorities.
Kokila Annamalai, a social worker and activist, highlighted multiple issues with food in dormitories as narrated by the residents, among which include — but are not limited to — receiving undercooked and even spoilt food that causes diarrhoea.
“They don’t know of any hotlines to call (MOM/MWC) and there is no one checking in with them about food and living conditions, or asking for feedback.
“When they speak to dorm management, they are sometimes scolded severely, ignored, or told that they will check/look into it, but nothing happens.
“Most have tried to provide feedback multiple times, but get no response,” said Kokila.
A migrant worker staying in North Coast Lodge told TOC that while residents can still buy dry food such as biscuits, chips, butter buns and soft drinks from the shop at the dormitory, they have no access to fresh food.
Despite having suggested to the management that residents of the dormitory could cook by themselves while maintaining social distancing, the worker said that he has yet to receive any response from the management regarding the issue.
Recognising the issue of food insecurity in migrant worker dormitories, Islamic donation portal Infaq.sg — an initiative under Islamic portal IslamicEvents.sg — has organised a fundraiser, through which proceeds will go to providing Muslim migrant workers with a “hot meal” for them to break their fast with.
The “Dormitories Ramadan Meals Project 2020” was kickstarted by HezomXpress, an online store based in Tampines selling Halal food and snacks.
“Thousands of people are quarantined because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of dormitories are in isolation, and all mosques are closed till 1 June 2020 pending further advice from the authorities, and they will not be able to break their fast within the mosque area,” according to the fundraiser statement.
“These workers came to Singapore to work hard for a living and provide for their families back home. They played an important part in building our HDB flats, Changi Airport and MRT lines,” the fundraiser statement read.
Members of the public who wish to contribute to the campaign or to obtain more information may do so here.
The Government had earlier established an inter-agency task force to support migrant workers.
The task force has been coordinating with caterers to deliver pre-dawn and breaking fast meals to the dormitories for migrant workers residing in dormitories.
Manpower Minister Josephine Teo last week said that the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) has established certain guidelines for dormitory operators in terms of facilitating the religious practices of their Muslim residents during Ramadan.
The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on Saturday (25 April) said that special arrangements were made for the Muslim migrant workers in the month of Ramadan to ensure that they are able to fulfil their pre-dawn meal.
“Special arrangements have been made for the Muslim migrant workers to get their sahur, or pre-dawn meals, earlier at 3am. This is to ensure that they can eat on time based on Majlis Ugama Islam Singapura (MUIS) guidelines on the consumption of sahur.
“Additionally, the Joint-Taskforce and @MUIS distributed over 1,500kg worth of dates to migrant workers living in non-purpose built dormitories,” MOM said.