Singapore reassures foreign workers after deportations

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Singapore, Dec 18: Nine days after its worst outbreak of violence in over 40 years, Singapore has reassured foreign workers, including Indians, that they would be allowed to continue working in the city-state as long as they do not break the law.

Foreign Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam reassured the workers, mostly South Asians, during his interaction with some 450 of them at a dormitory last night, following the riot in Little India, an area frequented by South Asians.

The reassurance comes as 28 Indian nationals were being charged for allegedly participating in the riot on the night of December 8. The riot was triggered by the death of an Indian worker in an accident with a bus. Singapore also began deporting 52 Indian nationals and one Bangladeshi national yesterday for being part of the riot and not obeying police orders.

They were also prohibited from returning to Singapore. Police have warned 200 other South Asian workers serving them formal police advisories for "relatively passive" role in the riot and not causing obstruction or participating in the incident. No further actions would be considered against the 200 workers and they would be allowed to continue working in Singapore.

"Those who have no role in it (the riot), need not worry. They came here to work, earn some money and go back, they will be allowed to do that," Shanmugam said. Shanmugam explained why an administrative rather than a judicial approach was being taken with regard to the repatriation process involving the 53 South Asian workers who were arrested yesterday.

The reassurance comes as 28 Indian nationals were being charged for riots.

He said, "If every case has got to go to court, and the judge makes a decision, then repatriation decisions become judicial rather than administrative, then every foreigner is entitled to stay here at tax payers’ expense, housed at tax payers' expense, it could stretch on a year more.

Noting that the foreign workers were generally happy working in Singapore, he said, "Those who have been involved in the riot actively or passively, they will be dealt with. And all the workers accept that this is fair." Shanmugam said he might visit more dormitories housing foreign workers, having visited three since last week as part of ongoing interactions with foreign workers, mostly South Indians.

An independent expert was to reconstruct the fatal accident involving the bus and Indian worker Sakthivel Kumaravelu. The 33-year old construction worker reportedly fell into the path of the rear tyre of the bus and was run over.

The riot, involving some 400 South Asian workers, left 39 police and civil defence staff injured and 25 vehicles including 16 police cars, damaged. Over 300 security personnel were deployed to quell the violence.


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