Average of five foreign workers go missing each week in S’pore

Construction workers in Singapore

SINGAPORE: Over the last three years, about five foreign workers go missing each week on average.

On Saturday morning, Channel NewsAsia was at the scene when an employer who found his missing worker, handed him over to the police.

Once they saw the missing foreign worker, employer James Ng’s staff held on to him while security personnel called the police. Mr Ng then took a photo as evidence.

Shortly after, six officers arrived in three police cars to conduct investigations.

Mr Ng said his 42—year—old worker is from Anhui, China, and had run away from his dormitory in Geylang in April. Mr Ng alleged that his worker had gone to work illegally for another construction company.

The worker was interrogated for three hours at Jurong industrial estate before he was brought to the police station. He is expected to be deported within a week.

Mr Ng said employers are liable for missing workers, and they may face legal repercussions, if workers get into any accident. He added that he is still trying to find three other missing workers, all from China, and is offering a reward of S$2,000 for each of them.

Mr Ng said: "The workers say they’ve lost a lot of money, so they can’t go back to work. And when another company offers them a higher pay, they go there to work instead."

It is illegal for employers to recruit missing workers, and those who do so may get caned or jailed.

In a reply to Channel NewsAsia, the Manpower Ministry said the number of foreign workers who go missing is not large. It said that between 2008 and 2010, fewer than three out of every 1,000 workers in Singapore go missing. This amounts to about 250 cases annually.

The ministry said a worker is considered missing if he is not repatriated once his work permit is cancelled, and most of these workers were eventually found and repatriated.