The idea of a self-contained township for foreign workers has been given a thumbs-up by foreign workers themselves. But foreign worker advocates said more should be done to help these workers integrate with the wider community.
Singaporeans who do not want foreign workers living near them cite security concerns and even a downgrade in their property value as reasons.
But are these fears rational? Some foreign workers welfare groups said it is simply a fear of the unknown. That is why they are advocating that foreign workers be integrated with the wider community through a more structured orientation programme.
“I think community centres are a good start. If they are able to do social activities that can involve both migrant workers along with its local community, either through festivals or through sports activities or National Day Parade, it’s a good opportunity to bring the two groups together,” said Sha Najak, helpline manager at Transient Workers Count Too.
She added that current orientation roadshows may be a little too top-down in approach.
But some foreign workers said they are quite happy to live among themselves, away from housing estates.
“Wherever the dormitories, if it is away from the residents, it’s better because when it’s very near to the residents’ area, the workers have to go to the same FairPrice supermarket, or … canteen, they might misunderstand each other,” said Keve Xavier, a foreign worker.
But others said they would like to get to know Singaporeans better to ease misunderstandings.
“Really, we feel shame too (when) the people go and disrupt everybody, and nobody likes to stay with those people,” said Nathan Neduzcheliyan, also a foreign worker.
“We want to establish a good relationship between the Singaporeans and workers,” said foreign worker Humayun Kabeer.
Responding to Channel NewsAsia, the People’s Association said some grassroots organisations have engaged foreign workers through ad-hoc programmes aimed at helping them integrate into the community.
The government has said that more Singaporeans will find themselves living in the midst of foreign workers as Singapore expands.
While no solution has been reached yet for residents of Serangoon Gardens, the National Development Ministry is looking into the issue and is expected to respond soon.
Source : Channel NewsAsia – 11 Sep 2008