SINGAPORE - 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 one kitchen for their use.
Cockroaches in drawers, blood trails from squashed bed bugs and a dirty fridge were some of the living conditions that officers from the Manpower Ministry's (MOM) housing inspectorate found when they raided the unit last Thursday night (July 6), after they were tipped off by the Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC).
Thin wooden partitions were used to create smaller rooms. "The resultant tight and cramped rooms and artificially-created narrow corridors between (them) pose serious fire-safety and crowding issues for occupants, and is exactly the kind of practice that can result in serious accidents or loss of life," the MWC said in a Facebook post on Monday (July 10).
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 of different employers.
MWC said it found out about the place from a worker who called its helpline.
The Manpower Ministry is investigating the matter and has asked the workers' employers to relocate them to approved housing immediately, said the MWC post.
MWC staff were told that workers had been cooking in their partitioned rooms as it took too much time to queue for the kitchen stove. They also had to wake up very early if they wanted to use the washroom before work as there would also be a long queue.
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.
"The overcrowding, partitioning and obvious over-use of on-site amenities like electrical, water and gas points created serious health and safety issues to the occupants of the unit, and it was abundantly clear that immediate action was necessary," said the MWC.
"Despite such dire living conditions, the migrant worker occupants dared not report the conditions to authorities for fear of reprisals from their employers and being left without a place to live."
MWC urged the authorities to take stern action against the wrongdoers "to send a strong message of deterrence to those who exploit dignity and welfare of migrant workers in this manner".
It also advised migrant workers facing similar housing issues to alert them, and said their identity would be protected.