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Migrant worker Sharif: Plight of migrant workers in Singapore unchanged, akin of modern-day slavery

In a recent Facebook post, Uddin MD Sharif, who left Singapore due to harassment and false accusations, expressed disappointment that the plight of migrant workers remains unaddressed, despite Singapore’s economic success. He likened the situation to modern slavery.



SINGAPORE: Uddin MD Sharif, a Bangladeshi migrant worker and writer, recently expressed his disappointment on Facebook over the continued neglect and oppression faced by migrant workers in Singapore despite the nation’s economic prosperity. He noted that their conditions have not improved.

Last Friday (31 May), Mr Sharif left Singapore after the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) declined to extend his Special Pass. This decision followed a police investigation that found no evidence of his involvement with unlicensed lenders.

He was earlier terminated by his former employer due to harassment from unknown individuals who sent mail alleging his indebtedness to a loan shark. In the termination letter, his employer claimed that the decision was made under the advice of MOM and the police.

However, MOM and the Singapore Police Force later clarified that they did not advise the company to terminate Mr Sharif. They noted that a police officer, concerned for the well-being of Mr Sharif’s employer’s daughter, had generally advised that harassment usually stops after a foreign worker’s work pass is cancelled and they depart from the employer.

Despite the absence of any evidence that he borrowed from illegal moneylenders, Mr Sharif was required to leave Singapore by 31 May.

According to Mr Sharif, this requirement contradicts earlier assurances from authorities that he could stay in Singapore to seek new employment after the conclusion of his investigation.

Two friends of Mr Sharif from Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC helped convey his appeal to Prime Minister Lawrence Wong about his case at a Meet-the-People session on 29 May.

PM Wong assured Mr Sharif that he would write to the ICA, appealing for an extension of his stay in Singapore to aid his job search.

However, despite PM Wong’s appeal, in a joint statement issued by the ICA and MOM at midnight on 31 May, the agencies reiterated that Mr Sharif had been given ample time since the termination of his work permit on 11 March 2024 to seek employment under the Temporary Job Scheme.

MOM stated that Mr Sharif had declined job offers, including packer and hotel cleaner positions.

The joint statement insisted that since police investigations into the case have concluded and Mr Sharif has not secured new employment, he must leave Singapore.

Mr Sharif: Maybe it was my crime to share migrant workers’ plight

Mr Sharif, who has been contributing to Singapore’s construction, tunnelling, and piling sectors since 2008, has been a fervent advocate for migrant workers’ rights, striving to combat the pervasive notion of disposability that often plagues this community in Singapore.

In two recent Facebook posts, Mr Sharif expressed his profound frustration and disappointment with how the Singaporean authorities have wronged him, particularly over the past few months, which he feels have undone years of hard work and personal development.

He believed that his forced departure was not only a personal injustice but also a setback for the rights of workers.

In his post, he reiterated the ongoing plights faced by migrant workers in Singapore and highlighted the disparity between the country’s economic development and the living conditions of these workers.

He argued that without migrant workers, Singapore’s economy would suffer significantly, with buildings left unfinished and economic reserves depleted.

He highlighted the harsh and oppressive living conditions of migrant workers, describing their lives as akin to “modern-day serfdom”.

“Whenever we go to speak for our rights we have to hear a lot of abuse. According to them, we are getting money in exchange for labour, that’s a lot! Actually this country is developed but still not humane.”

He pointed out that despite Singapore’s GDP figures, he was disappointed that many migrant workers’ issues remain unaddressed, including banning of the unsafe transportation of workers in lorries, poor health conditions in dormitories, irregular payment of salaries, and inadequate treatment of workers.

“As the saying goes, it’s darkest under the wax. The lives of migrant workers in this country are just as bleak. Although slavery has been abolished in Africa, it is still practised in Singapore.”

“Maybe it was my crime to share these experiences,” Mr Sharif suggested, implying that his outspoken nature and commitment to truth may have led to his expulsion.

“I never thought that the authorities would arrange a drama and send me out of this country. If I had known, I would have written more and more!”

Mr Sharif expressed disappointment over unfair forced departure

In another Facebook post, he reflected on his 16 years in Singapore, during which he built a strong personality but felts that the authorities destroyed it in the last three months.

He feels that their actions were particularly harsh because he is a migrant worker, “A Singaporean might not have done this to him. If they were innocent, they would have filed a million-dollar defamation suit against the employer!”

Mr Sharif talked about his passion for reading and writing since he working in Singapore, which led to his stories and poems being published in various newspapers.

His first book, Stranger to Myself, was published in 2017 and won an award for best non-fiction in 2018, which was a significant achievement and a source of motivation for him as a migrant worker.

His second book, Stranger to My World, published in 2021, became a bestseller.

He is proud that his books are available in public libraries and sold in bookstores across Singapore, and he has participated in the Singapore Writers Festival several times.

Sharif emphasized the effort and time it took to gain recognition both as a worker and as a writer. He felt that he has contributed significantly to the literary community in Singapore and has been featured in international media as a writer.

Despite his contributions and non-criminal status, Mr Sharif was disappointed that the authorities forced him to leave unfairly and did not properly evaluate his situation.

“I am not a criminal, the authorities of this country forced me to leave. They did not evaluate me properly as a worker or as a writer. They have wronged me. ”

Mr Sharif expressed his sense of injustice and betrayal by the authorities, who he feels did not honour his contributions or conduct a proper investigation into his situation.

“They did not dishonour just a worker or a writer. They created a barrier to their rights.”

Unanswered questions linger following Mr Sharif’s abrupt deportation

Earlier,  in a recent interview with CNA, his former employer denied online allegations, claiming that they had staged the loanshark harassment to find a reason to fire Mr Sharif.

With Mr Sharif’s abrupt departure from Singapore due to the authorities’ refusal to extend his Special Pass, certain questions remain unanswered, particularly regarding the lack of a perpetrator found for the harassment.

One of these is how the harasser gained knowledge of Mr Sharif’s new potential employer when the work permit application was submitted to MOM.

According to Mr Sharif, a prospective employer received a threatening message, “If he works for you, you pay!”, along with scans of Sharif’s work permit, similar to what was done with the previous employer.

The police, however, claimed to have “exhausted all leads in identifying the alleged harasser.”

It is difficult for the Singaporean community not to feel perplexed by the authorities’ decision to conclude the investigation despite the harasser never being found.

Additionally, concerns arose about how Sharif was treated by authorities during the investigation, as he was allowed to leave Singapore after no offence could be made against him, seemingly as if he were the accused.

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Our police force can fall to find the person who wrote all those letters to his various employers on a non existent debt? Are we to believe this in a Smart Nation? Or is this to shut him up like the many POFMAs that are constantly rolled out to Opposition members? What a sick community under the PAP? It seems to be getting worse under LW.

Even a migrant worker is deem a threat to this regime, … or so it seems !!!

Imagine, … thee amount of people, entities, agencies and narratives involved, in order to deport Sharif, is a stark reminder to the electorate, … how this regime operates, the lines it’s prepared to cross and the stories it’s willing to tell, … in order to achieve it’s objectives !!!

Too bad they believed all the hype and propaganda news about our sgov…until they get burned…
Same goes for the natives.

Then, it was the Sam Sui women.
Now it is cheap migrant workers.

Same exploitation, different era and different settings.

Another example of enablers are e.g. sexual predators the establishment refuse to named and blacklisted instead blacklist those who speak up. No?!?

Same for Politically Targetted Sgrean or those who refuse to be enslaved. So it is not only Migrants. Overlords always seek to overlord by whatever means they can used. Those who allow them are call the enablers who allow them to get their ways …