Singapore's safety is top priority: ICA

Singapore's safety is top priority: ICA
ON THE GROUND: Minister for Home Affairs and Law K Shanmugam at the Woodlands Checkpoint yesterday.
PHOTO: MHA

While travellers coming through both the Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints must be cleared efficiently and effectively, it must not be at the expense of Singapore's security.

"Our top priority is to ensure the safety and security of Singaporeans," said Woodlands Checkpoint commander Alan Koo.

The Assistant Commissioner (AC) was speaking at a media briefing yesterday on delays at the land checkpoints.

Drawing parallels between the tactics used by smugglers of contraband goods and terrorists carrying explosives, AC Koo said both groups often hide goods or explosives within vehicles or clothing.

Singapore's land checkpoints are among the world's busiest, clearing up to 400,000 travellers daily. This shot up to 430,000 over the current festive period and year-end school holiday.

Between January and October, the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) caught over 622 Singaporeans leaving the country without the appropriate travel documents. These include travelling with passports belonging to someone else, expired or invalid travel documents, or no passports.

There were 690 such cases the whole of last year.

Also, in the first 10 months of this year, there were 3,500 foreigners trying to enter Singapore without appropriate travel documents, despite having cleared the Malaysian checkpoints. This is more than the 3,400 cases last year.

To ensure there is no "malicious intent", ICA said it checks every car entering Singapore.

As a further security measure to tackle tailgating, ICA introduced double drop-arm barriers at the entry and exit points of Woodlands Checkpoint on Dec 1 and Tuas checkpoint on Sept 21.

The systems are on trial. AC Koo said it would take some time to "shape the behaviour of travellers" to ease congestion.

PRIORITY

Minister for Home Affairs and Law K Shanmugam said: "People understand that, as a result of what happened in Paris and the heightened terrorism threats worldwide, ensuring the safety of Singapore and Singaporeans is ICA's foremost priority.

"We have to check passports and vehicles."

Paris was hit by a series of coordinated terrorist attacks on Nov 13, where 130 people killed.

Mr Shanmugam visited the Woodlands Checkpoint on Saturday during the morning peak following reports of massive jams on the Johor-Singapore Causeway last week.

The waiting time had lasted up to five hours.

Mr Shanmugam said Singapore actively monitors the queue and it is unlikely to exceed three hours.

"Our officers are also working very hard, they are working round the clock," he said.

"I told them that Singaporeans appreciate the challenges and sacrifices they are making during this festive period to keep Singapore and Singaporeans safe."

juditht@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on December 22, 2015.
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