Singapore eases restrictions on movement of migrant workers

Migrant workers in Singapore no longer need special permission to leave their dormitories from Friday after two years of coronavirus restrictions, but campaigners have criticized the decision to keep some “discriminatory” restrictions in place.

Some 300,000 migrant workers, many of them from South Asia, live in the city’s thriving hostels.statewhere they are usually packed into common rooms and sleep in bunk beds.

Huge complexes were hit by Covid-19 and closed early in the pandemic, bringing rare attention to what human rights activists say was the poor living conditions of low-wage workers.

For most people in Singapore, strict movement restrictions were only in place for a short period of time, but migrant workers mostly stayed in their hostels, except when they went to work or ran errands.

Authorities have gradually loosened restrictions to allow them to visit purpose-built “leisure centers” and rolled out a scheme to allow them to apply for special “weekend passes” to visit certain locations.

From Friday, workers in industries such as construction and maintenance will no longer need passes to leave their dormitories.

But authorities in tightly controlled Singapore still require them to apply for permits to visit four popular destinations on Sundays and public holidays, with up to 80,000 passes available per day.

The measure is to deal with “potentially high attendance” in these areas, a labor ministry spokesman told AFP.

“While we are freeing up community visits, there is still a need to remain vigilant as the pandemic is not over yet.”

Desiree Leong of the Humanitarian Organization for the Economy of Migration, a local group that supports migrant workers, welcomed the removal of the exit pass requirement but called the remaining restrictions “discriminatory.”

“For the rest, we no longer have movement restrictions,” she said. “It’s hard to see why these restrictions still apply to migrant workers.”