Singapore

Company crams 120 workers in two flats

HORRIFIC: The living conditions at the Selegie apartment. PHOTOS: MIGRANT WORKERS' CENTRE

Helpline officer Kavitha Rajoo and other officers of the Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC) saw their worst case of shoddy housing for foreign workers in November 2014.

A helpline caller claimed his employer, Harri Engineering, had crammed close to 120 migrant workersinto two apartments.

They were on the 6th and 8th floor of Selegie Centre, on Selegie Road, he said.

The MWC officers conducted a joint sting operation with enforcement officers from the Ministry of Manpower the night of the tip-off.

They met at a coffee shop nearby to discuss the plan to raid the two apartments.

Ms Rajoo, 38, said: "We went in with a very open mind. Getting a tip-off is one thing but things might turn out otherwise at the scene.

"We saw the workers were forthcoming and after a short meeting at the coffee shop, we had hoped that we would be able to solve this case." 

As they began making their way to the apartments, some workers were seen coming down with their personal belongings, reported an issue of NTUC This Week.

When questioned, they revealed they had been asked to shift to another location. 

Someone had alerted the workers in the apartments about a possible check by the authorities, said the NTUC This Week report.

When they reached the apartments, the officers noticed each unit still had about 25 workers packed in. 

Ms Rajoo said: "I was overwhelmed with what I saw. It was quite shocking and it was difficult to see that these workers were treated this way. How can a company cram workers in such a miserable limited space?" She saw the workers' personal belongings left all over the place. 

There were also planks outside the apartment, which appeared to be used as beds by some workers.

There was a strong smell of urine at the staircases.

Ms Rajoo said: "It was truly the worst scenario I witnessed. There was only one toilet that all these workers had to share. 

"Hygiene was a big issue. There was a strong smell of body odour and unwashed clothes were lying everywhere. 

"Their bedsheets also looked stained. It was also not healthy for them because air was not circulating properly. We immediately offered accommodation to these workers at our own dorms at Kranji."

The case has since been solved and some workers have changed employers while others have gone home, she said.

I was overwhelmed with what I saw. It was quite shocking and it was difficult to see that these workers were treated this way. How can a company cram workers in such a miserable limited space?

- Ms Kavitha Rajoo on seeing the conditions the workers were living in.