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'Like prison': Singapore migrant workers suffer under Covid curbs

New Straits Times, Singapore, 13 November 2021 - Bangladeshi migrant worker MD Sharif Uddin used to spend his days off with friends outside his cramped Singapore dormitory, but coronavirus curbs have for 18 months left him stuck inside during his spare time.

More than 300,000 migrant workers, many of them from South Asia, live in dorms in the prosperous city-state, where they are typically packed into shared rooms and sleep on bunk beds.

The vast complexes were hit by Covid-19 and locked down at the start of the pandemic, while restrictions were introduced across the whole country for a period to prevent a broader outbreak.

Curbs have been eased for most in Singapore, where -- despite currently facing a renewed virus wave -- vaccinated people can go out shopping and to restaurants, and borders are gradually re-opening.

But it is a different story for the low-paid migrants, who remain subject to far more onerous restrictions that mostly allow them to travel only between their work and accommodation.

"It's a very painful life... like prison," said construction site worker Uddin, adding that

before the pandemic he used to meet friends at the weekend to drink coffee, recite poetry and gossip.

"We're only allowed to go to work and home, back and forth, and nowhere else. It's like living under house arrest," added the 43-year-old, who has worked in Singapore for 13 years and written two books about his experiences.



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