Domestic workers in Singapore long for visits home amid Covid-19 restrictions

The Covid-19 pandemic has derailed international travel and many migrant domestic workers in Singapore have not made their usual visits home. New rules have made these trips more onerous and costly.

The Straits Times talks to four women who have not been home to see family and friends in a long while.


Filipino maid in Singapore watched her husband take his last breath over video call

Ms Tara Dhar Hasnain (left) with her helper of four years, Ms Gelerina Hernandez. PHOTO: COURTESY OF MS TARA DHAR HASNAIN

As her maid watched her husband's life slowly slip away, Ms Tara Dhar Hasnain sat by her side, trying her best to comfort her.

Ms Tara, 71, sat with Ms Gelerina Hernandez, 49, in her Ulu Pandan condominium for about fours hours on that fateful afternoon on Oct 6 last year, looking on via Messenger video call as the younger woman's 53-year-old husband lay dying on his hospital bed in San Fernando, Philippines, stricken with throat cancer and unable to speak.

Knowing the end was near, Ms Hernandez, who could not be at his bedside due to travel difficulties because of the Covid-19 pandemic, told her husband not to worry about their three children and that she would take care of them.

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I fear for the lives of my family and friends, says Myanmar maid who has not been home since 2017

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When the coronavirus began spreading in Myanmar last year, Ms Zin Zin Aye started to worry for her family. Then, in February, Myanmar's military seized power in a coup and her anxiety grew.

The death of her grandfather shook her, and when the coronavirus began spreading in Myanmar last year - the number of infections there has grown from 200 in May last year to 500,000 this month - Ms Zin Zin Aye started to worry for her family.

Then, in February this year, Myanmar's military seized power in a coup and her anxiety grew.

Tearing up, Ms Zin Zin Aye, or Ah Naw as she wanted to be known, told The Straits Times that her 70-year-old grandfather had been battling stomach cancer for years. He died in his sleep in February last year.

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Migrant domestic workers longing to see their families again soon

Ms Suja Kaliyappan, who has worked in Singapore for three years, has not seen her college-going boys since her last trip back to India in 2019. PHOTO: COURTESY OF SUJA KALIYAPPAN

Two migrant domestic workers who have not been home since the pandemic began share their thoughts on not being able to reunite with their families.

Ms Suja Kaliyappan, a divorced single mother with two sons - aged 18 and 20 - has worked in Singapore for about three years. She has not seen her college-going boys since her last trip back to Kanyakumari, India, in November 2019.

Ms Sophiahmuri, who goes by only one name, hopes to return to Karawang in West Java to see her husband and five older siblings some time next year.

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Border restrictions, stay-home notice make it hard for domestic workers to visit home

Since the pandemic, few domestic workers have gone home and then returned to work in Singapore. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

There were 245,600 migrant domestic workers in Singapore as at June this year, according to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), down from the 261,800 that were working here in December 2019, before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

When the pandemic started early last year, a number of countries imposed strict quarantine rules or even closed their borders, and the maids here, hailing from nations such as the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, found it tough to go home for visits.

In an advisory on its website, the MOM advises employers and domestic workers to discuss and come to a mutual agreement for the domestic workers to postpone home leave until the Covid-19 situation stabilises.

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