Number of immigration offenders at 13-year low; arrested harbourers, employers up: ICA

 SINGAPORE - Even as the overall number of immigration offenders dipped to a 13-year low last year, the number of harbourers and employers of these offenders arrested rose sharply.

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Here is the report from the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA):

Decrease in Number of Immigration Offenders Arrested

The number of Immigration Offenders (IO)* arrested continues to decline since 2001.

The total IO figure fell by 2 per cent from 2,580 in 2012 to 2,5 30 in 2013.

*IOs refer to Illegal Immigrants (II) and Overstayers (OS).

Increase in Number of Harbourers & Employers of Immigration Offenders

The number of harbourers of IOs arrested in 2013 registered a sharp increase from 77 in 2012 to 233 in 2013. Similarly, the number of employers of IOs arrested in 2013 rose from 41 in 2012 to 97 in 2013.

Increase in Number of Contraband Smuggling Cases

The number of contraband smuggling cases detected has increased from 80,200 in 2012 to 99,700 in 2013.

Decrease in Number of I mmigration Offenders Arrested In 2013, the Immigration & Checkpoints Authority (ICA) cleared about 203 million travellers, an increase of about 3.6 per cent compared to 2012. ICA faces the constant challenge of increasing traveller volumes and the need to clear them efficiently while ensuring that security is not comp romised.

The total number of Immigration Offenders (IO) arrested in 2013 registered a 2 per cent decrease as compared to 2012.

The number of Illegal Immigrants (II) has declined since 2011 while the number of Overstayers (OS) has increased slightly in 2013.

600 IIs and 1,930 OS were arrested in 2013, registering a fall of 13 per cent and an increase of 2.1 per cent respectively as compared to 2012.

The number of IOs arrested has declined since 2001. This is mainly attributed to ICA's multi-pronged approach in dealing with the IO situation in Singapore by enacting deterrent laws, enforcing checks at our borders, conducting inland enforcement, educating our community on illegal harbouring offences. ICA also works closely and cooperates with our regional counterparts to keep IOs at bay.

Increase in Number of Harbourers and Employers of Immigration Offenders

The number of harbourers of IOs arrested in 2013 registered a significant increase from 77 in 2012 to 233 in 2013.

Similarly, the number of employers of IOs arrested in 2013 rose from 41 in 2012 to 97 in 2013.

Harbourers and Employers (H/E) figures have been on the rise since the 3rd quarter of 2012.

One of the key reasons for the sharp increase is that ICA had taken over all the investigative and associated functions for harbouring and illegal employment cases from the Police since July 1 2012.

This transfer enables ICA to have better oversight of the enforcement of all immigration related offences. This has also led to better synergies and efficiency in tackling immigration offences. ICA also works closely with other enforcement agencies such as the Poli ce and Ministry of Manpower to crack down on such illegal activities. At the same time, ICA has been embarking on our public education drive to spread our key messages to the community so that they do not harbour IOs.

IOs enter Singapore mainly to seek employment and they pose potential law and order problems in Singapore. The public plays an important role to keep this problem in check by not employing or harbouring IOs.

Without a job or shelter, these IOs will not find it attractive to come to Singapore. ICA, in collaboration with our strategic partners and the community, will continue with our efforts to deny sanctuary to IOs, preventing them from seeking shelter or illegal employment, and to further take to task those who harbour or illegally employ IOs.

Strengthening Community Partnerships

Community partnerships also play a critical role in supporting ICA's mission to keep the H/E situation in check.

We have about 100 dedicated volunteers who serve as ICA's Ambassadors to help reach out to the community. Among them are teachers, taxi drivers, businessmen, retirees and grassroots leaders. Besides helping to educate senior citizens, youths, students and foreign workers on ICA's role in border security, these Ambassadors are also actively involved in ICA's outreach programmes to help spread anti-harbouring messages to the public.

Increase in number of contraband smuggling cases

On August 20, 2013, at about 4am, a female traveller arrived at the Tuas Checkpoint. In the course of routine baggage checks, ICA officers detected unprocessed bird's nest weighing approximately 2.4kg in two biscuit tins and two plastic containers packed amongst her belongings.

The case was referred to the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) for further investigations.

Bird's nest, loose tobacco, firecrackers, ninja stars, knuckle dusters are some of the numerous contraband items detected by ICA officers. For 2013, there was a significant increase in the number of cases detected. A total of 99,770 cases were detected compared to 80,200 in 2012, registering a 24.3 per cent jump. This shows that the suite of measures which include intensive public awareness effort and cooperation with enforcement agencies have remained effective in foiling smuggling attempts.

Methods of Concealment

While smugglers of contraband items invent new ways of concealment, they also use old tricks to escape detection by ICA officers. Unfortunately for these smugglers, experienced ICA officers are able to spot tell-tale indicators and successfully thwart the smuggling attempts.

The same method of concealment could also similarly be employed by terrorists to smuggle dangerous materials such as weapons or explosives into Singapore. Therefore, ICA does not condone any smuggling attempt and appropriate actions will be taken against the smugglers.

Criminalising Marriage of Convenience

ICA takes a serious view of individuals trying to circumvent our system by engaging in marriage of convenience (MOC) to obtain immigration facilities in Singapore. MOC cases have been typically charged under Section 57(1)(k) of the Immigration Act where the individuals are charged for making false statements in obtaining immigration facilities. The penalties for the offence are a fine not exceeding S$4,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, or both.

In August 2012, a specific provision of the Immigration Act, Section 57C, to criminalise MOC was introduced to send a strong deterrent signal and better enable ICA to definitively deal with those who try to abuse the system. This applies to those who have contracted/entered into an MOC or those who have arranged or assisted in arranging such marriages on or after 19 December 2012. The penalties for the offence are a fine not exceeding S$10,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years, or both.

Their immigration facilities will a lso be revoked.

For 2013, 124 persons were convicted for marriage of convenience under the provision, Section 57C while another 160 were convicted for false declaration under Section 57(1)(k).

ICA will not hesitate to take action against those who have facilitated MOCs or submitted their applications under false representations.