‘Take a good hard look at our own racism’: Man spotlights comments on migrant workers

Migrant workers at a construction site. Image: Cegoh
Migrant workers at a construction site. Image: Cegoh

A man yesterday called out the purported discrimination against migrant workers in Singapore, putting a spotlight on online comments by those who were against the idea of workers moving into local neighborhoods.

Some of the online comments were in response to the government’s decision to allow migrant worker dormitories to be built closer to residential areas as part of new housing plans to reduce density. Some migrant workers are also expected to temporarily move to places such as vacant neighborhood schools in the coming months. 

Among the dozen of comments compiled by Shawn Lim in his online post was one that read: “Build near residential area? OMG how about the safety of our children?”

Singapore to pilot new migrant worker dorms with a little more space

The comments came as protests against racism and police brutality in the US had sparked an online conversation about racism in Singapore. The #BlackLivesMatter hashtag has been trending in the city-state over the past few days. 

“Before we Singaporeans start using #BlackLivesMatter and #AllLivesMatter to express our outrage at the killing of George Floyd, which is important don’t get me wrong, perhaps we should take a good hard look at our own racism,” Lim wrote. 

We can be better and should be better when it comes to racism.

Before we Singaporeans start using #BlackLivesMatter and…

Posted by Shawn Lim on Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Lim added: “After the government announced it was building more dorms for migrant workers, these were some disgusting comments put out by Singaporeans. Why? These migrant workers built the homes you so comfortably live in and type these racist comments from.”

“You are the beneficiary of their hard work and yet you want them to be out of your sight and out of your mind? It’s all good and well that you want to clap for our frontline workers. But these #MigrantWorkersMatter too, and they deserve our respect, not racism.”

A bulk of Singapore’s migrant workers, mostly people from South Asia, are from the construction industry. They help to build most of Singapore’s buildings including public housing. 

Allow migrant workers facing unemployment to change jobs, NGO says

Singapore’s COVID-19 task force announced on Monday it would build 11 new worker dormitories with improved living standards in the coming years and would temporarily house migrant workers in places such as temporary dormitories, vacated state properties, factories, and former neighborhood schools such as Innova JC and Bedok North Secondary School. 

In its announcement, the Ministry of Manpower and National Development noted that some of the dormitories will “inevitably” be located closer to residential areas due to Singapore’s land constraints.

“Given our land constraints, some dormitories will inevitably be located closer to residential areas. Singaporeans must therefore do our part too. We must reject the Not in My Backyard (NIMBY) mindset and instead appreciate these workers who keep Singapore going,” its press release said.

US protests began following the death of a black man named George Floyd after a white police officer kneeled on his neck. Officer Derek Chauvin has since been terminated from his job and is facing murder and manslaughter charges. 

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