More self-service to unclog checkpoints

More self-service to unclog checkpoints

SINGAPORE - Except shorter queues at Singapore's checkpoints, under the Government's move to allow all Special pass and work permit holders to use the automated self-clearance system to clear immigration.

Currently, only Singaporeans, Singapore permanent residents, long-term pass holders, holders of employment or dependant passes, and other registered users can use the self-service machines with their biometric passports.

Widening the use of the self-service immigration system by the middle of this year will help unclog the checkpoints, said Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean in Parliament yesterday.

"What this will do is it will help to speed up clearance of motorcycles, reduce the queues of motorcycles and therefore open up some of the existing capacity for other vehicles," said Mr Teo, who noted that more than 70,000 bikes pass through the checkpoints every day.

Only 30 per cent of motorcycle riders use the automated system. Under the new move, 95 per cent of all Malaysian motorcycle trips will be able to use the automated self-clearance system, said Mr Teo, who is also Home Affairs Minister.

Despite the upcoming improvements, he said his ministry has to strike a balance between fast immigration clearance and tightened security, something he acknowledged is "not easy".

He was responding to Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Zaqy Mohamad and Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP Hri Kumar Nair, who asked how the authorities would prevent a recurrence of recent breaches by Malaysians at the Woodlands checkpoints in January and March.

Last Sunday, another Malaysian man, Koh Chin Had, was arrested after he allegedly tried to enter Singapore without his passport. He was charged yesterday.

Mr Teo said the constraints at checkpoints were infrastructural in nature. In the March 8 intrusion, the car managed to flee because of a faulty security barrier due to leaking hydraulic fluid.

He said ICA will replace the hydraulic components in all its barriers. Checks on the barriers will be stepped up from once every three months to daily.

But there will always be attempts by people to evade Customs or immigration checks at the borders, said Mr Teo, adding that the problem is not unique to Singapore.

He added: "Although we have detected instances, people either attempting to or inadvertently trying or passing through immigration or Customs without proper clearance, we have managed to contain most of them."

However, long waiting times and traffic jams remain a grouse among people from both sides of the Causeway.

Mr G. Suresh, a Malaysian work permit holder who travels in and out of Singapore daily and is already using the biometric system, said that he hopes traffic will be managed better.

Currently, he finds that it is still more efficient to manually present his passport. "Traffic is so heavy that I am usually diverted to the manual passport lane. When there is a glitch with the machines, it also holds up everyone behind," he said.

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