Ever since many migrant worker dormitories in Singapore were gazetted as isolation areas due to high number of COVID-19 cases in the premises, these migrant workers were stuck in their rooms for months now with limited contact with their loved one.
As such, migrant labour rights non-profit organisation Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) revealed that over 44,000 migrant workers across the 43 Purpose Built Dormitories received an automatic S$10 top-up to their prepaid SIM cards from the organisation. This was funded in large part by Facebook and the Community Foundation of Singapore.
With the assistance of Singtel, M1 and Starhub, workers with zero balance in their prepaid card accounts as at 1 May 2020 received this automatic top-up without the need to take any action.
In addition, 10,000 physical top-up cards will also be distributed to those in the Factory Converted Dormitories.
With this top-up, the workers who had to remain in their rooms since the start of the Circuit Breaker or earlier, will be able to make regular IDD phone calls home to their families – a timely gift for those observing Aidilfitri.
As for those who depend on free data cards or dormitory WiFi would previously only have been able to call home using telephony apps if their family members had smartphones or could overcome poor 3G connectivity in the remote villages.
However,TWC2’s top-ups enable normal phone calls.
With this last phase of phone top-up campaign, TWC2 would have spent nearly S$1 million providing phone top-ups for migrant workers since this exercise started on 5 April, benefitting more than 90,000 in total.
This is about 31 percent of the work permit (construction) worker population in Singapore. The organisation’s giving.sg campaign has thus far raised over S$270,000, which was spent in the first phase of top-ups.
“When the lockdown was first announced, we knew immediately that it was critical to help workers maintain a line of communication to the outside world and with their families back home,” said Debbie Fordyce, president of TWC2.
She added, “To have achieved this was unprecedented and no small feat for a small NGO like ours. But we could not have done it without the support of many”.
One of the recipients, Bangladeshi worker Mohd Abu Shahin who stays at Sungei Tenah Lodge, had only S$1.50 left in his prepaid card account and said his family was too poor to afford smartphones – therefore internet calls were not an option.
Divesh Kumar, a resident at the S11 Dormitory, was fretting over what to do with his dwindling account balance when the free top up came by surprise. “I very lucky! Thank you very much,” he said.
Another contributor to this latest round of top-ups is Facebook.
“We are pleased to provide this support, enabling these workers to maintain connectivity with their families, especially during these difficult times. We look forward to welcoming them back to our jobsite, once we can safely resume works,” said Greg Nimerick, Facebook’s Regional Data Centre Construction Manager.
’’Though simple, CFS finds this initiative meaningful and impactful. It provides mental respite and emotional comfort for our guest workers to connect with their loved ones back home. Sayang Sayang Fund is happy to partner with TWC2 in this effort as part of the [email protected] programme introduced to support our workers through this difficult time,” said Catherine Loh, CEO of The Community Foundation of Singapore.
If that’s not all, the beneficiaries of TWC2’s phone top-ups include newly warded migrant worker COVID-19 patients in the hospitals, so that personnel from the Ministry of Health could call them to facilitate contact tracing.
New phone chargers were also purchased for hospitals to give out, as the patients did not have access to their belongings after being warded, so as to avoid bringing possibly contaminated items into the wards.
A supplementary assistance of EZ Link cards were given to help workers who did not have anyone picking them up upon their discharge from the hospital.