44 workers crammed in apartment with just 2 toilets, 1 kitchen

As many as 44 men were squeezed into a four-room Geylang apartment that was being used as an illegal dormitory. And it had just two small bathrooms and a kitchen for their use.

Officers from the Ministry of Manpower's (MOM) housing inspectorate found cockroaches in drawers, blood trails from squashed bed bugs and a dirty fridge when they raided the unit last Thursday, after they were tipped off by the Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC).

Thin wooden partitions were used to create smaller rooms that were tight and cramped, and the artificially created narrow corridors posed serious fire safety and crowding issues, said the MWC in a Facebook post yesterday.

"(It) is exactly the kind of practice that can result in serious accidents or loss of life," it added.

Under Urban Redevelopment Authority rules, a maximum of six unrelated people can stay in a rented private residence.

The workers staying in the 1,300 sq ft unit were mostly construction workers hired by different employers.

MWC said it found out about the place when a worker called its helpline.

The MOM is investigating the matter and has asked the workers' employers to immediately relocate them to approved housing.

MWC staff were told that workers had been cooking in their rooms as it took too much time to queue for the kitchen stove.

As there were no proper laundry facilities, workers had to hang their wet clothes to dry on the frames of their bunk beds and any other available space.

"Despite such dire living conditions, the migrant worker occupants dared not report the conditions to the authorities for fear of reprisals from their employers and being left without a place to live," said the MWC.

It urged the authorities to take stern action against the wrongdoers "to send a strong message of deterrence to those who exploit (the) dignity and welfare of migrant workers in this manner".

MWC also advised migrant workers facing similar housing issues to alert it, and said their identities would be protected.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2017, with the headline '44 workers found in 4-room unit during raid'. Print Edition | Subscribe