Migrant Worker In Loan Shark Case is to Leave S’pore by 31 May

A Bangladeshi worker, Mr Md Sharif Uddin, who was reportedly harassed by loan sharks, is set to leave Singapore by 31 May, after police investigations failed to identify the harasser.

This development follows Mr Sharif’s online complaint on 25 May, where he expressed that he was being sent back home after the conclusion of the investigations into the alleged harassment.

In his video, he mentioned that the authorities had previously assured him he could continue working in Singapore once his case was concluded.

According to a joint statement by the Singapore Police Force and the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) on 28 May, Mr Sharif was informed on 23 May that he no longer needed to remain in Singapore as the police investigations had ended.

“Extensive investigations were conducted, including detailed interviews and forensic examinations of evidence to establish the identity and motive of the alleged harasser, who had not only harassed Mr Sharif, but his former and potential employers as well,” the statement read.

“The police have not found any evidence to suggest that Mr Sharif had borrowed from unlicensed moneylenders and have exhausted all leads to identify the alleged harasser.”

Everything that Happened Beforehand

In April, MOM and the police announced they would investigate Mr Sharif’s case after the 46-year-old claimed in a video—posted by migrant worker welfare groups on social media—that he lost his job after urging his employer to report illegal moneylenders who were harassing him over an alleged unpaid loan.

The harassment he faced included debtor’s notes addressed to him at the home of his ex-employer’s daughter. The incident prompted his former company, Hiap Seng Piling Construction, to raise the issue with the authorities.

While Mr Sharif denied ever taking any loan, the company terminated his employment and stated in the termination letter that it was done “under police and MOM officer advice”.

The plot twist? The police and MOM clarified at the time that this was not the case, in response to press queries last month. The authorities also mentioned then that they had reached out to Mr. Sharif “to address his concerns and offer our assistance”.

Mr Sharif’s case gained significant support, with more than 760 people signing an online petition to allow the father of two to remain in Singapore.

He is also notable for being the first migrant worker to win the Singapore Book Award for Best Non-Fiction Title, and is recognised for his endeavors to raise awareness about the challenges faced by migrant workers over the past 16 years here.

After Mr Sharif’s Termination

During the police investigation, Mr Sharif was issued a special pass to facilitate his stay in Singapore to assist the authorities, after his work permit was terminated by his former employer on 11 April.

This pass, which legalizes a foreigner’s stay in Singapore, is issued for specific purposes such as assisting in investigations, attending court, and for stateless persons residing in Singapore. MOM and ICA are the issuing authorities for the pass card.

His former employer paid for his accommodation and meals during the investigation period, according to the police.

The statement added that Mr Sharif was also allowed to seek employment under the Temporary Job Scheme.

The short-term employment scheme is designed for foreigners who are required to remain in Singapore for investigation or prosecution purposes.

After Investigations were Concluded

After meeting with the police on Friday morning, 24 May, at ICA’s headquarters, Mr Sharif was informed that he had to leave Singapore in three days.

According to Mr Sharif, he had asked to stay for one more month to look for a job, but they said they cannot allow that now that the investigations are over.

“This is a betrayal, as earlier, the authorities assured me that I would be allowed to continue working in Singapore after my case,” Mr Sharif said in a video uploaded onto TikTok after his visit.

He had also allegedly asked the police to request his ex-employer to give him his previous job back, but was ultimately turned down.

He expressed that he has encountered difficulties securing a suitable job since his employment termination in March.

MOM had provided him with a list of seven agencies that he could approach for jobs. Although some offered jobs outside his industry, one agency had allegedly stated that it was unable to assist because the firm “only accepts Temporary Jobs Scheme worker holders, not police cases”.

The authorities also mentioned that MOM and the Migrant Workers’ Centre had contacted him to ensure his well-being and connected him with employment agencies to assist in his job search.

“Mr Sharif had expressed his preference to be a safety coordinator in the construction industry, but he was unable to secure such offers; we also understand that he had declined job offers for non-construction roles.”

Mr Sharif is worried that if he returns home, it would be doubly challenging for him to find a job here again — as he fears that his work pass application might be rejected.

In the online video he published, Mr Sharif emphasized the urgent need for a job as he has to support his wife, who needs multiple surgeries for health conditions like hernia and gallstones removal.

“I have run out of funds and will not be able to support my family unless I find work soon,” he stressed in the video.

He also mentioned that he has an eight-month-old child back home.

It was then further extended to 31 May upon Mr Sharif’s request and given the circumstances of his case, the statement concluded.

Workers’ rights group Workers Make Possible, which initiated a petition in April to prevent his deportation, and the non-governmental organization Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (Home) have endeavored to assist Mr Sharif.

Ms. Kokila Annamalai, a spokesperson for Workers Make Possible, mentioned that they have collaborated with other groups to appeal to MOM for granting Mr Sharif a longer extension, but unfortunately, the appeal has been rejected.

“We will continue to work towards him returning to Singapore with a new job, or if he chooses to stay in Bangladesh, we will see what his immediate and longer-term needs are and how best to support him with rebuilding his life there,” she added.

Stephanie Chok, Home’s executive director, emphasized that migrant workers who are victims should be given a fair chance and adequate time to seek re-employment.

“(Mr) Sharif’s situation shows the ‘deportability’ of migrant workers, even when they are victims,” she said.

“As Home has previously encountered migrant workers who find themselves unable to process their work permit applications once they return to their country, we hope that (Mr) Sharif will not be blacklisted or face any other administrative hurdles in obtaining a successful work pass application.”

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