Immigration offences down in first half: ICA

Most are for overstaying; contraband smuggling up for 2nd straight year.

There has been a significant fall in cases involving illegal immigrants and overstayers so far this year.

According to Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) figures revealed yesterday, the number of immigration offenders dropped by nearly a quarter, from 1,311 offenders in the first half of last year to 1,020 this year.

Most of the offenders, around 800, were overstayers.

However, the smuggling of contraband rose for a second straight year. There were 47,800 such cases from January to June, up from 46,300 in the same period last year and 39,500 in 2012.

ICA said some smugglers have gone back to methods used in the past - such as hiding items in modified compressed natural gas tanks, hollowed-out wooden door panels and under the floors of buses, cars and vans.

In June, for instance, officers foiled an attempt to smuggle 3,500 packets of duty-unpaid cigarettes through Tuas Checkpoint and avoid around $30,000 in tax. They were hidden within wooden panels that were purportedly meant to be used as doors.

There were also five cases of items being concealed under modified floorboards in vans.

Bullet-proof vests, throwing knives, pepper sprays and night-vision binoculars were some of the other common items seized by ICA officers.

ICA Commissioner Clarence Yeo said it was necessary to continue incorporating new technologies to enhance checks while keeping immigration clearance efficient.

About half a million people pass through the borders each day, said ICA, adding that this was increasing.

Since the end of last month, the Biometric Identification of Motorbikers has been enhanced to include all work-permit and S-pass holders.

That means 95 per cent of all motorcyclists are eligible for automated clearance at the land checkpoints, up from just 30 per cent.

There are plans to introduce more biometric-related initiatives, the ICA said.

Community outreach efforts to educate the public against harbouring immigration offenders have also seen a drop in the total numbers of harbourers and employers of immigration offenders from 166 in the first half of last year to 149 this year.

This article was first published on Aug 20, 2014.
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