Singapore monitoring spate of suicides among migrants

Source: Reuters Published: 2020/8/6 19:18:41

A worker sprays insecticide outside a student dormitory to fight against dengue fever in Singapore, on July 13, 2020. Photo:Xinhua

Singapore is monitoring a recent spate of suicides and attempted suicides involving migrants which have heightened concerns over the mental health of thousands of low-paid workers confined to their dormitories in the city-state due to COVID-19.

In April, Singapore sealed off sprawling housing blocks where its vast population of mainly South Asian laborers live in crowded bunk rooms, in an effort to ring-fence a surge in coronavirus cases among the workers.

Four months on, some dormitories remain under quarantine, and even migrants who have been declared virus-free have had their movements restricted and face uncertainty over the jobs on which their families back home depend.

Rights groups say this has taken a heavy toll on workers, pointing to incidents where migrants have been detained under the mental health act after viral videos showed them teetering precariously on rooftops and high window ledges.

In a graphic incident on Sunday reported widely in local news, a 36-year-old migrant was pictured bloodied at the foot of some stairs in his dormitory after self-harming.

Singapore's Ministry of Manpower said late Wednesday it was monitoring recent suicides and attempted suicides involving migrant workers in dormitories and working with its partners to enhance mental health support programs for them.

The ministry said it had not observed a spike in suicides among workers compared to previous years. Such incidents tended to stem from family issues which may be exacerbated by the distress of not being able to return home due to COVID-19 restrictions, it added.

Singapore has recorded over 54,000 COVID-19 cases, mainly from dormitories in which around 300,000 workers from Bangladesh, India and China are housed. Only 27 people have died from the disease in the city-state.


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