In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, Singapore quickly emerged as a text-book example of how to handle the spread of the disease. From contact tracing to temperature reporting and sanitizers, both the prevention protocols and on-the-ground execution seemed stellar. Any sense of early success in pandemic control was however quickly overshadowed by an outbreak across migrant workers’ dormitories throughout the city-state. Soon thereafter, official figures projected that one in every six migrant workers was potentially infected. Overnight, the Singapore story became an early warning of the types of precarity and inequality that the pandemic would soon expose across the world. For Singaporeans, this also became an opportunity to revisit the unspoken truth about the city-state’s profound dependency on migrant workers.
Beyond the official government response, in the months to follow, expressions of generosity, compassion, and support for migrant workers became a new normal. This, along with intense soul-searching amongst Singaporeans, signaled an opportunity of a different sort: fair and equitable inclusion of migrants.
Would it be possible for Singapore to become an example of the type of community engagement and policy solutions necessary for such change? What would be some of the key challenges? How could Singapore’s migration policies affect Southeast Asia and beyond?
To discuss such questions, this panel brings into conversation both migrants and scholars of migration living and working in Singapore. The panel includes:
Akshita Nanda, is an award-winning writer, who came to Singapore on a youth scholarship. She is currently completing her MIA degree at the National University of Singapore.
Zakir Hossain Khokan, is a freelance journalist, award-winning poet, founder of Migrant Writers of Singapore, One Bag One Book project, and a quality control project coordinator in the construction sector. He was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh and arrived in Singapore in 2003.
Prof. Anju Mary Paul is an international migration scholar with a research focus on migration to, from, and within Asia. She is an Associate Professor in Sociology and Public Policy at Yale-NUS.
The panel will be moderated by Dr. Marina Kaneti, Assistant Professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. Dr. Kaneti specializes in questions of global governance, including migration and climate change.