Human-trafficking in Singapore...with work-permits
Jocelyn (txt msg):
"A lot of girls r complaining to this kind of work. Our permit is performing artist for 5 months not as a prostitute. All of us here wer like prisoner a clone without feelings.."
In the past month, I’ve encountered quite a few Filipinas whom have been lured to singapore by pubs by job offers of ‘dancers’ or ‘waitresses’ validated by months-long work permits, but whom, upon arrival are forced into prostitution via ‘barfines’.
Some of those i’ve encountered were enticed over by ‘well-meaning’ friends whom are currently working in pubs in Singapore with the promise of the aforementioned positions and for which they get commissions or debt-reductions for every girl they help the pub lure over.
Said one Jocelyn (not her real name),
“I used to work in Japan as a dancer and we just dance. So when my friend told me I can be dancer in singapore, i come. But when we are here, me and my friend (she points at a friend ‘entertaining’ a customer at a nearby table) find out we must ‘landi landi’ (get physical) with customer and have to do ‘barfine’ (where a customer pays the pub anywhere between $150-$300 to take her out of the pub for a ‘night’). I have work permit for work here for a few months as dancer but I don’t want to work here like this, i want to go back Philippines, I don’t want to be prostitute...what will my mother say if she find out...For some girls it’s ok, but for me I don’t like.”
(at this point she breaks into tears, whilst looking fearfully at the manager and bouncers hoping that they aren’t noticing, whilst wiping off her tears quickly)
In addition to this, some of the girls who refuse are made to pay ‘penalties’ by the pub - between $50-$100 - and these are added on to their ‘otang’ (amount owed to the pub for the cost of their flight, food, lodging & transportation to and from the pub that is slowly, if ever, cleared by their being bought ladies’ drinks priced between $10-$50). And besides this, if they fail to bring in their ‘quota’ of drinks per night - usually between 15-20 - they are further fined ‘penalties’ and these are added on to their existing debt. Some, even after a few months, would not have cleared their thus-increased debts or earned a single dollar. The pubs however, earn huge amounts as the ladies’ drinks are usually watered down alcohol or soft drinks disguised as alcoholic ones.
Where the girls aren’t directly forced to do ‘barfines’ - a new innovation by pubs in singapore - they are indirectly compelled to do so out of desperation by their not making any money month after month. Currently, according to one report, the ‘otang’ of some of the girls on a 5 month work permit amounts to $5000. Previously, a few years ago, it used to be around the region of $2000 for those brought in on a ‘social visit’ pass. Given this huge debt immediately incurred upon arrival, some of these girls do inevitably turn to prostitution as not enough ‘points‘ can be acquired just from drinks. Besides this, the girls are kept virtual prisoners and their only view of singapore is from the vantage of transport to and from ‘work’. At best, they might be able to get an ‘off-day’ on a Sunday every now and then.
This is an absolutely appalling situation.
Something has to be done about this. Whilst some of the girls are not coerced and, as 2nd or 3rd timers in singapore plying the same trade, are well aware of the ‘job requirements’, others, many of the ‘1st timers’, aren’t. But over time, as I’ve found the Filipinas are highly adaptable creatures, and given their economic condition, many grow to accept their positions and move on to being 2nd and 3rd timers. Sad. Something has to be done about this. I hope that the pressure of ‘netizens’, AWARE, amongst others may be brought on the relevant authorities to save the souls that traverse the nocturnal side of life in an otherwise 1st world state.
I’ll leave the reader with the following text messages received...
“I’m still not doing the barfine thing. Just this morning we went back at the house at 7.30am. Our boss talk to the new ones. Becoz I never do barfine, he talk to me and ask me how i want to make money. I said just work except for the barfine thing. Really sir, I cannot do that I said.”
“You see we don’t have that big sales this past 10 days we stay here and he is blaming all the new ones. He ask us what is happening and why we don’t have customers. I said, 1st thing, we’re just new here, 2nd there is no one coming around the bar, 3rd I always encounter uneducated customers, all of them want to take me out but I refuse them. My boss get mad bcoz I never do barfine.”
A message received from another...
I’m kinda scared of this job...But I talk to them diplomatically, and they won’t listen, I go to the embassy.”
"Please try to write something about our work. I tell u there’s a lot more filipinas who are suffering in this kind of job here in singa4.”
[such pubs include those found in Tanjong Pagar, (former) Seletar Camp, Balestier Complex, and Orchard Towers.]