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Response to ‘Errant employers face stiffer punishment’

Dear Sir/Madam,

I refer to the article ‘Errant employers face stiffer punishment.’ In response to the reporter’s question in her interview with me about how I think harsher penalties will deter employers who try to circumvent the cost of hiring foreign workers, or abusing them, I had replied ‘The penalties should be harsh enough to make it unprofitable for employers to exploit vulnerable migrant workers.’

However, the report did not quote this sentence in full, and as a result its intended meaning was altered significantly. How it appeared in the article was I had agreed that MOM’s proposed penalties are harsh enough to act as a deterrent when this was not what I had said or meant.

Moreover, my criticism of our laws regulating migrant labour were left out. In my replies to the reporter, I had pointed out the limitations that still exist in the Employment of Foreign Manpower Act and that provisions should be made to compensate workers who are victims of blatant abuse and exploitation. I added that any review of the penalties relating to contraventions of the Act must recognise that many such contraventions may also be indicators of human trafficking involving labour exploitation.

I explained that adequate training programmes for frontline enforcement officers need to be done to ensure that identification of trafficked and exploited persons takes place at the earliest possible opportunity and they are not wrongfully prosecuted. Furthermore, I had said that HOME hopes to see amendments that address the welfare and rights of migrant workers because some of the provisions in the Act pertaining to migrant worker’s welfare are vague and fall short of international labour standards. Without clear and enforceable standards, whatever rights the workers have in the law are meaningless if they cannot be exercised.

While I do not expect all my views to be reflected in an article because of space constraints, what is selected for publication should be contextualised and accurately reported.  By selectively omitting a phrase in the sentence that I had given in response to the question posed, Today had imbued it with meaning I did not intend.

Jolovan Wham (范国瀚)

Executive Director
Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME) 情义之家