There is no basis for saying that there is widespread abuse of foreign workers in Singapore and that this was a reason for the riot in Little India on Dec 8, said Acting Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin in Parliament on Monday.
Foreign workers here are, by and large, treated well by their employers. The problems and complaints by foreign workers make up a very small fraction of the 700,000 work permit holders here, said Mr Tan in a ministerial statement.
The minister was responding to questions from several Members of Parliament who asked about how foreign workers were treated here, following the riot at Little India.
After the riot, non-government organisations pointed to the abuse of foreign workers as a cause of the violence. Mr Tan rejected these allegations, saying: "We do not think there is basis for these assertions but look forward to the COI's perspective on the matter."
He was referring to the Committee of Inquiry chaired by a former Supreme Court judge and set up to investigate the causes of the riot.
Nonetheless, the Government will continue to go after errant employers, Mr Tan said. "When we come across cases of errant employers who flout our laws, my Ministry takes a strong enforcement stance, and will continue to do so."
Mr Tan also announced that more recreational centres will be built for foreign workers. These centres will provide amenities such as remittance services, supermarkets and sports facilities. There are now four such centres and Mr Tan did not elaborate on how many more new centres will be built or where they will be located.
But these centres will never fully replace shared spaces such as Little India, Mr Tan stressed. "Foreign workers need a place to come together to catch up on news from the village, have a taste of food from home, and meet friends and relatives from across the island for a few precious hours... Recreation centres cannot always meet these psychological needs."
"I believe Singaporeans understand and appreciate the need for these shared spaces."
Rounding up his ministerial statement, Mr Tan said: "The government will continue to monitor closely the overall number of foreign workers and their impact on the communities they interact with, as well as enhance the management of their well-being. "