Singapore, 15 Mar 2014. In the span of the last four months, there had been several men who appear to be migrant workers loitering near my home area between 10pm to 1am. They sit or stand by the roadside, appearing to be busy on their mobile devices or ipads. These caught the attention of my neighbours and I.
There have been cases of trespassing in the last month. My neighbour told me he has seen dark shadows in his gardens, suggesting someone has climbed into his compound. The police was alerted but nothing was done.
Hence, I decided to monitor the situation by taking stealth images of these migrant workers. These images were shot without their knowledge. They would spend hours on their mobile devices. Are they tracking the movements of the residents in theneighbourhood? Are they sending information to someone else via the mobile devices?
One fine night, there was a migrant worker sitting by the kerb using his mobile device. I rang my neighbour and we decided to enquire why he was there in the wee hours. Upon confronting him, he apologized profusely and claimed that he was “stealing” wifi. He claimed he was sending pictures to his wife. We were stumped by what he said. Were we wrong to accuse him? I felt bad that we assumed he was there to commit crimes. However, having said that, we could not differentiate who were there to use wifi or to break into our homes.
After hearing his sad tale of having to “steal” wifi in order to communicate with his loved ones, I decided to embark on a project feature these migrant workers as real people.
I chatted up with some migrant workers and learnt that they were all in their twenties. They have left their homes in India and Bangladesh behind to come all the way here in Singapore to earn a good honest living so they can send the money back.
I photographed them close-up to show their amiably facial features. A handful of Singaporeans do not treat these migrant workers with due respect and dignity. Some of them do not even look at them in the eye or acknowledge their presence in public spaces. Hence, this project is allowing people to have a close look at them and discover that they are just regular folks who are here to make ends meet.
All Singaporeans were sons and grandsons of immigrants. So let us not discriminate against the migrant workers who are here just like how our forefathers did.