Sunday, 23 February 2014

Govt refutes AP's foreign worker report

News agency's article misrepresents foreign labour situation here, it says
By Amelia Tan, The Straits Times, 22 Feb 2014

THE Government has taken issue with an Associated Press (AP) news article alleging ill-treatment of foreign workers in Singapore, saying that it misrepresents the foreign labour situation here.

Manpower Ministry (MOM) corporate communications director Chong Wan Yieng, in a statement yesterday, said: "The article offers no evidence to support its view that the majority of foreign workers here are mistreated."

She said the United States news agency should correct its report headlined "Migrants say firms force workers out of Singapore" and highlight the clarification with other media organisations that have bought the story to run in their publications.

AP did not comment when contacted by The Straits Times for its response.

The AP report on Feb 16 had quoted a Bangladeshi welder, Mr Bapari Jakir, saying that his employers, who were not named, wanted to send him home in August 2012 before his contract was up. He said repatriation firm UTR Services was hired to get him to leave Singapore.

Mr Bapari also said in the article that three staff members from the firm, who looked like "big gangsters", wanted him to sign documents stating that his employers did not owe him any wages. When he refused, he was punched and "a knife was put to his neck".

AP reported that Mr Bapari was allowed to leave UTR's office only after he alerted a friend, who contacted migrant worker rights activist Jolovan Wham for help.

The worker is now staying with a friend while his case is being investigated, the AP report said. The report added that UTR denied Mr Bapari's allegations.

Ms Chong said that the ministry had told AP that Mr Bapari's case had been referred to the police for investigation and action will be taken against his company if his allegations are substantiated.

She added that there are few cases of workers who say they have been wrongfully confined.

Last year, MOM was informed of four such cases but they could not be proven after investigations.

A MOM poll in November of over 200 foreign workers who were going back home found that there were no cases of forceful repatriation.

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