San's Marine denied any wrongdoing or ill-treatment of its workers, but one of the workers, who spoke on condition his identity was protected, told Al Jazeera that they were "treated like animals".

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Migrant workers ripped off 

"We are badly beaten if we speak a word to them. They keep us in such a way that nobody can hear us, even if we die starving, they wouldn't care," he said.

An aid agency says more than 50 migrant workers living in similar circumstances, ran away from their employers after our story was broadcast.

Speaking in parliament in April, Gan Kim Yong, Singapore's acting manpower minister, had said that rogue employment agencies involved in false job scams could be punished with six months' jail and a $10,000 fine if they were unlicensed repeat offenders.

But he also said that workers who chose to work illegally instead of participating in government programmes to help them could be jailed up to a year and fined up to $5,000.