SINGAPORE - For the past two years, Covid-19 restrictions meant that Hari Raya Aidilfitri was a muted affair for construction supervisor Ripon, one of around 323,000 migrant workers living in dormitories in Singapore.
The 46-year-old Bangladeshi, who goes by one name, had to remain in his room at CDPL Tuas Dormitory as he cooked, prayed and chatted with only the 13 residents he shared the room with.
On Tuesday (May 3), Mr Ripon was among about 3,000 foreign workers who celebrated Hari Raya Aidilfitri at the Tuas South Recreation Centre.
The gathering, the first large-scale celebrations since Covid-19, was organised by the Alliance of Guest Workers Outreach - a movement of Hope Initiative Alliance, an inter-racial and inter-religious platform for social service organisations, and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).
The event was supported by others including the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) and the Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circle, a platform to promote racial and religious harmony in Singapore.
For almost two years after Covid-19 cases surged in foreign worker dorms in April 2020 at the peak of Singapore's coronavirus outbreak, migrant workers living in dorms were not allowed to leave their compounds freely.
Differentiated Covid-19 safety measures for migrant workers living in dormitories were lifted in March this year.
After praying and calling his wife and 20-year-old daughter in Bangladesh in the morning on Tuesday, Mr Ripon and some of his friends turned up at the recreation centre located near his dorm to play carnival games and enjoy live music performances.
Said Mr Ripon, who has been working in Singapore for 19 years: "Though we could celebrate Hari Raya in our dormitories during the last two years, I was sad because we could not leave the dorm.
"We also could not go out for any entertainment for a long time, so I feel happy that we can attend this event."
Events to celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri were also organised for foreign workers at the Penjuru, Terusan and Cochrane recreation centres.
Minister for Manpower Tan See Leng and Senior Minister of State for Manpower Koh Poh Koon were guests of honour at the Tuas event.
Muslim prayer leaders held worship sessions in the morning and the migrant workers were provided with food and snacks for lunch.
Delivering an address at the event, Dr Tan thanked the workers and said this year's Hari Raya Aidilfitri was a special and momentous occasion.
"Over the past two years, all of you, our workers, have had to adapt, you have had to keep up with ever-changing Covid-19 policies and safe management measures, including during festive occasions.
"I know it has not been easy for all of you... but you have displayed great resilience."
Vaccinated foreign workers living in dormitories can visit the community after applying for an exit pass.
They have also been able to visit recreation centres without applying for the passes from April 1.
Dr Tan said the exit pass quotas have not been fully utilised, adding that MOM is looking at how migrant workers can be given even more flexibility to visit the community.