Passed out migrant workers spark concerns

Potential for tragedy: A migrant worker fast asleep on the road in Singapore.

MOTORISTS driving near workers’ dormitories have flagged concerns over migrant workers eating and drinking alcohol at night by the roads near their residences, saying the men are at risk if an errant driver mounts a kerb.

On May 12, 2024, a migrant worker was spotted fast asleep on Jalan Lekar, off Old Choa Chu Kang Road, at 10pm as motorists drove around him.

He refused to budge even when two of his friends tried to rouse him, and moved only after 10 minutes of shaking and yelling in Tamil.

About 30m away, motorists entering Jalan Tapisan had to slow down abruptly because dormitory residents were eating and drinking alcohol while sitting on the two-lane road next to Sungei Tengah Lodge.

A migrant worker, who gave his name only as Vijay, said residents like him prefer to sit on the pavement outside, especially as alcohol consumption is banned by his dormitory on its premises.

“It is quieter and cooler outside, and less crowded... You can sit anywhere,” said Vijay, who was nursing a can of beer as he sat on the pavement in Kranji Way.

The migrant worker from India, who has been working in Singapore for 12 years, said most of his countrymen prefer to eat and consume alcohol on the pavements near their dorms, despite the risk.

In 2016, a truck, reversing towards a work area in the Thomson-East Coast Line Mandai Depot worksite, ran over two workers who were napping on the road after lunch.

While there are no laws banning drinking in the dorms, some providers do not allow the sale or consumption of alcohol on the premises. Drinking in public areas is also not allowed between 10.30pm and 7am.

Hooi Yu Koh, chief executive of construction services firm Kori Holdings, said that, at times, workers resort to unsafe behaviour when they are drunk, including sleeping near the roads.

“We find that workers that are housed in purpose-built dormitories, where there are adequate facilities to accommodate workers’ casual or leisure times, face fewer issues of endangering themselves as well as public safety due to a better controlled environment,” he said.

Dipa Swaminathan, founder of migrant welfare charity group ItsRainingRaincoats, said workers who consume alcohol often have little choice but to do it outside the dorms. — The Straits Times/ANN

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