SINGAPORE – The number of immigration offenders arrested in Singapore fell last year, but figures for contraband smuggling cases and people convicted for sham marriages have gone up.
According to latest figures from the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) released on Thursday (Feb 8), the number of immigration offenders arrested – which includes illegal immigrants and overstayers – dropped from 1,278 in 2016 to 1,176 last year. This figure has been falling in the past few years.
There were fewer people arrested for crossing Singapore’s borders illegally, with 186 people caught in 2017, a 14.3 per cent decrease from the previous year’s 217.
There was also a 6.7 per cent drop in the number of overstayers caught, from 1,061 in 2016 to 990 in 2017.
However, there was a rise in the number of contraband smuggling cases, with 90,327 in 2017 – a daily average of 247 attempts – up 2.6 per cent from 88,050 the previous year. There were 95,677 such cases in 2015.
The cases thwarted by the ICA at checkpoints include attempts to smuggle people, drugs, weapons, explosives and other contraband items.
A trending concern, which had been highlighted by authorities in the past, was the use of heavy commercial vehicles to smuggle contraband.
“The sheer size of such vehicles means that large quantities of contraband items or even dangerous materials such as toxic industrial chemicals can be concealed within the consignments or modified compartments of these vehicles,” said an ICA spokesman.
In October last year, there was an attempt to smuggle over 2,000 cartons of duty-unpaid cigarettes hidden in a modified compartment of a fuel tank towed by a prime mover.
In a more novel attempt in June, ICA officers uncovered 9,000 cartons of illegal cigarettes in a consignment declared as “assorted bread” in a Malaysian-registered truck.
Said ICA’s Commissioner Clarence Yeo: “Despite stringent checks, smuggling attempts have not abated. As such, we urge the community to be alert and collaborate with us to keep Singapore safe and secure.”
Last year also had a rise in marriages of convenience, with 53 people convicted, up 23.3 per cent from 43 in 2016. The increase comes after a downward trend in the numbers ever since the Immigration Act was amended to criminalise such marriages in 2012.
In a case late last year, ICA investigators uncovered a sham marriage syndicate and arrested 12 people – six Singaporean men and six Vietnamese “wives”.
Ten of them have been sentenced with jail terms ranging six to 18 months, and court proceedings for the remaining two are ongoing.
ICA figures also showed that the number of employers arrested for hiring immigration offenders rose slightly, from 45 in 2016 to 48 in 2017. The number of people, such as home owners, arrested for harbouring immigration offenders fell, with 252 last year, down from 306 the year before.