This is an account of the case of Hussein* as told by him to HOME. He was flagged as a victim of forced labour on 25 March 2015 as his case has satisfied 4 strong indicators (shown in bold below) and 11 medium indicators (shown in italics below) according to the indicators by International Labor Organization (ILO). Per the ILO, 2 strong indicators or 3 medium indicators alone would establish a case to be that of human trafficking.
Hussain’s case is currently pending assessment.
The situation in Hussein’s home country was economically harsh and jobs were scarce. A friends of Hussein’s promised a construction job in Singapore similar to what he had in his home country – that is, measuring materials and resources and supervising construction sites. The Singapore based “agent” who persuaded him to come here, told Hussein that his working hours would be 8am to 5pm, with one-hour lunch break, and any overtime work would be paid. He was also promised decent accommodation in a proper home. Hussein had no means to check if this information was true. The asking fee for securing this promising job for Hussein was S$12,000. As Hussein did not have this sort of money readily available, he borrowed extensively from family, banks and money lenders in his home country.
When Hussein received his In-Principal Approval from the Singapore Ministry of Manpower, it stated his occupation as “assembly engineer” and he was put on an S-pass (note: S-pass is designed for mid-skilled foreign employees with a monthly salary of $2200 and above).
Hussein soon discovered that none of the promises that had lured him to Singapore was true.
There was no construction site to supervise. Instead, Hussein’s tasks consisted of checking and cleaning fire extinguishers. Hussein had been deceived about the nature and location of the job.
Hussein’s work hours were excessively long – he was required to perform physical work from 8am to 9pm daily. There was no lunch break. He only had 3 days off during his employment of 4 months and 16 days. He was forced to work excessive work days and excessive work hours with insufficient breaks or rest.
Hussein was made to sleep in a workshop on site on a blanket; there was no bed provided. The place was infected with bed bugs and mosquitoes and stacked with fire extinguishers. Hussein had been deceived about his living conditions and the accommodation which was provided to Hussein was below acceptable standards for living – so much so that it was in fact illegal to for people to live at that site.
Hussein’s movements were severely restricted. He was virtually imprisoned at his place of work or in the workshop where he slept. He was under constant surveillance and unable to leave. His passport was withheld by the employer.
Hussein was deceived as to his salary and paid very little and at times his salary was withheld completely. Not only was he paid well below his basic salary . To complicate matters, the employer had forced Hussein to sign blank copies of salary papers upon his arrival in Singapore. While the employer had opened a bank account and deposited some money there, the employer subsequently forced Hussein to return that money to him. This fraudulent process undertaken by the employer, together with the low salary paid to Hussein meant that Hussein was not qualified for a S-pass and he could have unwittingly committed a crime by staying in Singapore illegally. Hussein has been deceived about the legality of his migration status in Singapore, his contract and his legal documentation. Hussein had been forced to lie to the authorities and was now in an additionally vulnerable position. Hussein had no employment contract and no other social protections such as insurance.
Hussein was verbally abused by his employer who also regularly threatened to withhold his salary and/or cancel his work permit. When Hussein asked for his salary to be paid to him, he was threatened by the employer who said he would report him to the authorities and forcibly return him to his home country.
But Hussein was by now in massive debt in his home country and trapped in a foreign country, entirely dependent on his employers.
HOME flagged Hussein’s case to the Taskforce. He was put on the Temporary Job Scheme and is awaiting the outcome of his case.