Support for foreign workers looks set to grow, with the Centre for Domestic Employees (CDE) to launch its own shelter and the Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC) to set up its second mobile office next year.
Currently, the CDE taps shelter space offered by other organisations to house around 50 domestic helpers. It has offered shelter to over 100 individuals this year, mainly for issues relating to abuse, mental health and run-ins with the authorities.
The soaring demand for such services prompted the CDE to look into finding its own shelter, said CDE executive director (strategy) Shamsul Kamar. Between April and June next year, the CDE plans to start a shelter in the eastern part of Singapore, with a capacity for 100 domestic helpers.
Counselling and mediation services will be offered on site, and facilities such as a time-out room are on the cards. In past cases, some domestic helpers have sought refuge for months. Training can be offered to those embroiled in long-term cases, Mr Shamsul told reporters at an International Migrants Day celebration at Toa Payoh Town Park on Sunday (Dec 18).
“What we’ve observed is that when the cases are resolved, there’s the likelihood that the domestic workers will go home,” he said.
“If we can add value at the shelter by giving them the skills and resolving some of their issues, then we can place these workers back at work.”
Migrant workers’ group Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics runs its own shelter for those in need and says the demand “is definitely there”.
“We have a capacity of 75 at our shelter. There are times when there’s more demand than we can meet. So it’s a good thing to have more shelters,” said executive director Sheena Kanwar.
Filipina domestic helper Mila Bangkiad, 53, who has been working here for the past three decades, has known some friends who have stayed in shelters after they failed to receive their salary from their employers or were given insufficient food at home.
“The new shelter will be good for them. It can give them some kind of help, such as advice, to help them settle their problems,” she said, adding that having an interpreter on site would be useful.
The CDE will also be publishing guides next month to bridge the gap between employers and their domestic helpers. The content will touch on basic cultural differences and common misconceptions between both parties. These will be distributed at community events and published online.
During a separate celebration on Sunday for foreign workers, MWC chairman Yeo Guat Kwang told reporters that a second mobile office will be rolled out next year “to see how we can reach out to workers more easily”.
The first mobile office was launched last year to allowthe organisation to reach workers at smaller dormitories, workplaces and congregation sites.
The main issues foreign workers face remain the same: Disputes over salaries, compensation and workplace injuries, said Mr Yeo.
He reiterated the need to ensure employers offer their foreign workers proper pay slips and place them in proper accommodation.