Fall in number of overstayers, illegal immigrants

Fall in number of overstayers, illegal immigrants

There has been a significant drop in the number of people overstaying, and crossing Singapore's borders illegally, with numbers caught hitting a 14-year low.

The 2,040 immigration offenders last year were almost a fifth fewer compared to 2013, according to statistics from the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) yesterday.

The number of illegal immigrants dropped by more than 40 per cent, from 600 in 2013 to 350 last year. Arrests of overstayers fell by around 12 per cent - from 1,930 in 2013 to 1,690 last year.

The ICA attributed the fall to a concerted effort by the authorities to clamp down on illegal immigration through laws, stringent border checks and enforcement, among other measures.

"Despite the improved situation, we need to remain vigilant to keep our borders secure," it said in its annual statistics report.

Senior Minister of State for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs Masagos Zulkifli told The Straits Times: "We expect all visitors to respect our immigration laws, and will not hesitate to take action against immigration offenders.

"In addition to stringent border checks and inland operations, it is important that we continue to work with employers and the larger community so that they do not offer immigration offenders work or a place to stay."

A total of 69 employers were arrested for employing immigration offenders last year, down 29 per cent compared to 2013. But more were arrested for harbouring overstayers and illegal immigrants.

There were 250 harbourers - or persons who provide shelter to immigration offenders - last year, a rise of about 7 per cent compared to 2013.

Those found guilty of employing or harbouring an immigration offender face between six months and two years in jail and a fine of up to $6,000. Companies face a fine of between $100,000 and $200,000.

The ICA said it has been working closely with the community to educate the public against harbouring illegal immigrants. Last year, it published a simplified Homeowners' Guide in the four official languages and distributed it to over a million households.

Cases of contraband smuggling were down by about 6 per cent to 93,380 last year.

And there was a fall of about 40 per cent in convictions for sham marriages. A total of 170 people were found guilty of having marriages of convenience.

The Immigration Act was amended to criminalise such marriages in 2012. The penalty is a fine of up to $10,000 or jail of up to 10 years or both.

amirh@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Jan 28, 2015.
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