Published: 20 November 2023
Colleagues from the Home Team and Public Service,
Domestic Guardians and Members of the Migrant Domestic Worker community,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. I am really happy to join you today to commemorate 10 years of the Domestic Guardians initiative in safeguarding our community.
Background on the Domestic Guardians Initiative
2. We have more than 200,000 migrant domestic workers in Singapore, and we cannot overstate how important their contributions are to the lives of many Singaporean families who have migrant domestic workers supporting them – helping them to take care of the people we love, our children and our elderly. So I want to, on behalf of all these Singaporean families, say a big thank you to all the migrant domestic workers. We really appreciate everything that you do. In many ways, our migrant domestic workers are already ‘guardians’, and we want to provide more of our helpers with the tools so they can protect themselves and their friends, and help to safeguard Singapore.
3. This is why the Bedok Police Division initiated “Domestic Guardians” in 2013 - a neighbourhood watch group comprising migrant domestic workers. How do we think about the Domestic Guardians? In some way, they are our ‘eyes and ears’ in preventing and detecting crime in the neighbourhood where they work, and also help promote crime prevention awareness within the communities they are active in.
4. From only 58 Domestic Guardians when it first started, the group has grown to more than 300, covering the eastern part of Singapore.
Important Role of MDWs in Crime-Fighting
5. Migrant domestic workers have made a difference in preventing crime and keeping families, friends, and the neighbourhood safe. They help to bridge cultural and language differences in the Police’s outreach efforts. They also help fellow workers better understand how to avoid becoming victims of crime.
6. They also encourage one another to adopt crime prevention measures, through active participation in various initiatives organised by the Police and other agencies, in partnership.
7. Ms Tuti Ratnasih, who is here with us today, is one of our Domestic Guardians. In 2015, she prevented her friend from falling prey to a love scam. Her friend had received a call from Malaysia, from her “online lover” who claimed that he was in the United Kingdom. He wanted money to be transferred to his account. Ms Tuti, who had previously learnt about such scams from the Police, alerted her friend that this could be a scam. She successfully stopped her friend from transferring her hard-earned money to the scammer. Over the years, Ms Tuti continues to keep her fellow workers safe.
8. Last year, Ms Tuti herself was contacted online and was offered a lucrative salary of between $12,000 and $15,000 to share money loan advertisements with her friends. She was told that for every successful loan, she would be given bonuses. Sensing that something was amiss as the offer seemed too good to be true, Ms Tuti did not take it up. She also shared her experience with her friends, to warn them against such shady and illegitimate offers. Today, Ms Tuti also helps to share knowledge and information she gets from Police about scams and unlicensed moneylending, with her friends, to protect them from becoming victims. This is a good example of how our migrant domestic helpers can help.
9. Our migrant domestic workers have also helped the Police to not just prevent crimes, but to solve crimes.
10. Two months ago, in September, two migrant domestic workers helped the Police to solve a serial housebreaking case in Pasir Ris. They managed to pull off a haversack from the burglar before he fled from the house where they worked. The haversack provided useful forensic evidence and aided the Police in solving the case. For their courage in attempting to stop the burglar, they were awarded the Public Spiritedness Award. I am also glad to hear that they have since signed up as Domestic Guardians. Let us congratulate Ms Chita Guzman Abaya and Ms Abaya Rizzalyn Estrella. Well done!
Prevalence of Scams and Unlicensed Moneylending
11. As the Domestic Guardian initiative marks its 10th anniversary, it is timely for us to take stock and ask how we can do better.
12. First, the crimes affecting our migrant domestic worker community today.
13. In 2022, about 20% more migrant domestic workers fell prey to scams, compared to the previous year. There was also an increase in migrant domestic workers taking up loans from unlicensed moneylenders - a 42% increase from the previous year.
14. These are worrying figures. We need to do more to protect our migrant domestic workers.
Expansion of Domestic Guardians Initiative
15. Therefore, we think that it is timely for the initiative to be extended beyond the eastern part of Singapore, to the rest of Singapore.
16. The Police will therefore broaden outreach efforts to include migrant domestic workers from every corner of the island. And we hope to transform their roles from being simply recipients of crime prevention advice, to being ambassadors of crime prevention. We hope that Domestic Guardians will be actively involved in a range of activities, such as participating in classes and roadshows to acquire skills to conduct crime prevention engagements with fellow migrant domestic workers, and help the Police and the community to co-create crime prevention initiatives.
17. The Police will also deepen partnerships with key stakeholders, such as the Ministry of Manpower; the Foreign Domestic Worker Association for Social Support and Training (FAST); with Aidha; the Centre for Domestic Employees, the Singapore Civil Defence Force, and the National Environment Agency, to equip our Domestic Guardians with other skill sets and knowledge to keep our communities safe and secure.
18. An example is the collaboration with FAST’s “Care Sisters” group where migrant domestic workers are trained to provide mental well-being support to fellow workers, and also to provide crime prevention advice.
19. I once again thank all our Domestic Guardians for their continued support and participation, and for stepping up to be crime prevention ambassadors.
20. I would also like to thank our partners for their collaboration in reaching out to the migrant domestic worker community, and for supporting and strengthening their integration into the fabric of Singapore society.
21. I look forward to the expansion of the initiative and to our Domestic Guardians working more closely with the Police to build a safer and more secure community.
22. Thank you all for being here.