Migration's Goons? Repatriation Companies in Singapore

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 3/02/2014 07:51:00 AM
[You may want to play The Clash's "Know Your Rights" for musical accompaniment while reading this.] My, oh my. First we learn that migrant riots do occur in Singapore. Now we learn of hired thugs whose presence is condoned in the supposedly antiseptic city-state? Migrant workers are usually the most vulnerable of people in any nation: when they say your time is up, it's time to go. As with most nasty things in life, this can be made into a business--albeit a rather controversial one:
Singapore needs foreign workers, but it doesn't want them to overstay their welcome, and firms get fined when they do. That has created a market for "repatriation companies," which deny allegations from activists and the United States that they use illegal tactics to expel foreign workers.

The country's wealth and continued growth rely in large part on foreign workers like Jakir, who build its skyline and maintain its top-notch infrastructure. Yet as the numbers of migrant workers soar, tales of abuse and exploitation are threatening to take some of the shine off the city-state's international reputation.
Even the US State Department has gotten into the act, citing certain practices in its human trafficking report:
In its 2013 report on human trafficking, the United States said the some repatriation companies in Singapore had "seized and confined" workers and used "assaults, threats and coercion to get them to the airport." The report added that the high costs of coming to Singapore to work via agent fees "makes migrants very vulnerable to forced labor, including debt bondage."
Keep in mind though that conditions in Singapore are, on the average, better than in other countries. Supposedly, it's only when they are perceived as becoming militant or troublemaking that the enforcers are called upon:
Compared to other places that rely on migrant workers like Dubai, conditions in Singapore are seen as relatively good. Most workers leave after a few years with the kind of savings they would have little chance of building if they had stayed at home. Yet, activists like Wham say many employers use repatriation companies to help them manage workers whom they perceive to be giving them problems or to get rid of those who are injured. Some say employers use the threat of repatriation to keep workers from arguing over pay disputes.
I guess it's part of why workers in Singapore don't, well, unite.