Smugglers are getting creative when it comes to concealing contraband, said the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA).
One key emerging trend is the smuggling of contraband through posted parcels or courier services, as opposed to common methods such as using modified vehicle compartments, it said in a mid-year report released yesterday.
Cases involving contraband detected in parcels increased by about 21 per cent from 6,588 in the first half of last year to 7,992 for the same period this year.
Some controlled items found include airsoft guns (a kind of replica gun) and drugs, falsely declared as toys and resin.
With online shopping gaining popularity in Singapore, some buyers are exploiting its convenience to buy prohibited or controlled items and have them sent via post to evade detection.
Last December, drugs were found hidden in the hollowed space of a book in a parcel arriving from a neighbouring country.
The ICA stressed that items such as animals, medicine and weapon replicas require an import licence or authorisation from the authorities for entry into Singapore. A list of controlled items that can be brought into Singapore are listed on the ICA website.
The ICA report, however, also noted a significant drop in the number of illegal immigrants arrested in the first half of this year. This was 133, which is down 34 per cent from 203 in the same period last year.
The overall number of immigration offenders in the first six months of this year also fell 4 per cent to 982 from 1,020 last year.
The ICA said closer collaboration with the police and the Ministry of Manpower, as well as stronger enforcement measures, have led to an increase in the arrests of those harbouring and employing illegal immigrants. A total of 247 offenders - 199 harbourers and 48 employers - were arrested from January to June this year. Last year, 149 offenders, comprising 109 harbourers and 40 employers, were caught.
Together with volunteers, grassroots leaders and real estate agents, ICA hopes to raise public awareness of the offences of harbouring immigration offenders through its various outreach programmes.
Said ICA Commissioner Clarence Yeo: "Despite the dynamic operational landscape and evolving security threats, ICA remains committed to enhancing clearance efficiency without compromising the security of our borders."
Members of the public are encouraged to report any suspected illegal harbouring or employment to ICA on 1800-391-6150.
Any information provided will be kept confidential.
This article was first published on August 21, 2015. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.