Responsible COVID Management in Migrant Populations: Lessons from Singapore

Responsible COVID Management in Migrant Populations: Lessons from Singapore

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Date(s): Tuesday 22nd June 2021 (09:00-10:30 UK; 16:00-17:30 Singapore/Taipei)

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The first cluster of infections affecting migrant workers in an electronics factory was reported by the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) in Taiwan on 4 June 2021. Within a week, this initial cluster of 67 individuals had increased to include two other electronic factories in Miaoli, with about another three thousand more either in quarantine facilities, isolating in dormitories or awaiting results of rapid tests. At the same time, COVID cases for the general population were decreasing. The rapid rise of migrant infections has shone a harsh light on two immediate issues concerning migrant rights in Taiwan: one is their living conditions in dormitories and second is the discrimination they face as a marginalised population. Many believe, Taiwan is at the very early beginning of what Singapore saw in April 2020, when a spike in COVID infections amongst its migrant workers population led the Singaporean government to order a lockdown of migrant dormitories. However, cases of positive COVID cases amongst migrant workers in Taiwan have not yet, at the time of writing, grown exponentially. This presents us with a crucial window to assess and review what lessons could be drawn from Singapore for Taiwan. This panel brings together public health, social policy and responsible business conduct experts from Singapore in a timely exchange on what could be learnt for Taiwan and other places with significant migrant populations in similar living conditions.

Alex Au, Vice President, Transient Workers Count Too, Singapore. Transient Workers Count Too (TWC2) is an NGO in Singapore dedicated to assisting low-wage migrant workers when they are in difficulty. Alex Au joined TWC2 in 2011 after a career in the corporate sector. His first involvement in civil society began some twenty years prior, when he was prominent in Singapore’s LGBT movement. He is also known in Singapore as a socio-political commentator and human rights activist, and has contributed chapters to various books on politics and society. At TWC2, Alex has special responsibility for a number of portfolios: communications, internal data and case management systems, and international relations.

Brian Hioe, a Founding Editor of New Bloom, an online magazine covering activism and youth politics in Taiwan and the Asia Pacific, founded in Taiwan in 2014 in the wake of the Sunflower Movement. A freelance writer on social movements and politics, as well as a translator, based in Taipei, Brian has been providing detailed English coverage of COVID developments in Taiwan, including its impact on migrant workers. A New York native and Taiwanese-American, he has an MA in East Asian Languages and Cultures from Columbia University and graduated from New York University with majors in History, East Asian Studies, and English Literature. He was Democracy and Human Rights Service Fellow at the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy from 2017 to 2018.

Dr. Joyce C.H. Liu 劉紀蕙,Professor, Institute of Social Research and Cultural Studies, and Director, International Center for Cultural Studies, of the National Yang Ming Chiao Tung University (NYCU) in Taiwan. Dr Liu leads Global Humanities Institute’s “Migration, Logistics and Unequal Citizens in Contemporary Global Context,” supported by the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and held at the NYCU for 2020-2021. The Institute has wide collaboration with academic centres in Australia, Hong Kong, South Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Poland, and Vietnam. Dr. Liu is also involved in longstanding projects at the NYCU on migrant rights in Taiwan, including the international conference in May 2021, “Exceptional Zone at Sea and Dysfunctionality of Law? Future Policies on Migrant Fishers and Marine Life.”

Guna Subramaniam, Southeast Asia Regional Advisor of the Migrant Workers Programme, Institute for Human Rights and Business. Guna has extensive experience in building partnerships with multiple stakeholders in business and human rights. He is responsible for developing the Southeast Asia Chapter of the Leadership Group for Responsible Recruitment, an international collaboration between leading companies and expert organisations to drive positive change in the way that migrant workers are recruited. Guna also previously worked at the Issara Institute, where he conducted research on forced labour and human trafficking in fishing vessels and led its ethical recruitment pilot programme, facilitating collaborative meetings between labour recruitment agencies and supply chain businesses in the apparel, seafood and agriculture sectors.

Dr. Paul Ananth Tambyah, is a Professor of Medicine and Infectious Diseases Consultant Singapore and current president of the Asia-Pacific Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infection. He is also the President-Elect of the International Society for Infectious Diseases and will start his term in 2022. He is active in civil and political life in Singapore in addition to his academic interests in healthcare infections and emerging infectious diseases.

Moderated by Dr. Bonny Ling, a Research Fellow of the Institute for Human Rights and Business, an international business think-tank. Previously at the Centre for Human Rights Studies, University of Zurich in Switzerland from 2014-2019, she is an independent researcher affiliated with the Cambridge Centre for Applied Research in Human Trafficking for her work on human trafficking. She has worked in the UN system and in international civil society. She holds a Ph.D in Law from the Irish Centre for Human Rights, M.Phil (Cantab) in Criminology and MA in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School, Tufts University. She also consults as a legal analyst on responsible business conduct with a focus on Asia; and has served as an international election observer in East Timor and for the OSCE. She writes on human rights, migrants, business responsibilities and international relations and development.

Introduction from Dr. Chun-yi Lee, Associate Professor at The School of Politics and International Relations, University of Nottingham. She is also the Director of Taiwan Studies Program at Nottingham, a board member of European Association of Taiwan Studies. Chun-Yi’s first book was published by Routledge in 2011: Taiwanese Business or Chinese Security Asset. The book is under Leiden Series in Modern East Asia History and Politics. Currently, Chun-yi is working on a public policy research project, to compare Taiwan and UK government’s strategies to counter Covid-19. Meanwhile Chun-yi is working her second single authored monograph on the topic of ‘China’s New Normal: The Impact of China’s Rise on the Global Political Economy