Unfair to say foreign workers cause trouble in Geylang

Unfair to say foreign workers cause trouble in Geylang
Streetwalkers standing along the junction of Geylang Road and Geylang Lorong 22 last Thursday. Donning skimpy outfits, they emerge at dusk like clockwork and flirt with men, both foreign and local.

It is unfair to jump to the conclusion that foreign workers cause trouble in Geylang, said migrant rights groups.

They also believe an event like last December's Little India riot is less likely to happen in Geylang, as the workers who frequent the area gather in small pockets around the neighbourhood.

In contrast, hundreds congregate in popular spots in Little India such as the junction of Race Course Road and Hampshire Road where the riot took place.

"I think it is a difference in culture. South Asian workers find solidarity in numbers while the Chinese national workers are more independent," said Migrant Workers' Centre (MWC) executive director Bernard Menon.

He believes another key reason workers gather in smaller groups in Geylang is that there are hardly any large open fields in the area.

Instead, workers typically hang out in shaded areas at roadsides or in back alleys of shophouses.

And while Geylang has been a key gathering point for workers from China, not all visit the area. Others prefer to spend time in the heartlands, he said.

"They do not have to worry about not being understood, as many Singaporeans speak Mandarin. Most South Asian workers visit Little India because they know that the people there speak their language."

Staff from MWC and Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home), which both have offices in Geylang where foreign workers can get help with employment disputes, said they hardly hear and see foreign workers getting into fights in the area.

Home's executive director Jolovan Wham said: "It is unfair to think that much of the crime and violence in Geylang is caused by foreign workers. This is a place where there are brothels, pubs, karaoke lounges. There are pimps and gangsters everywhere."

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