Nearly 60% spike in cases of harbouring, hiring immigration offenders: ICA

Immigration offenders arrested during ICA operations.
Immigration offenders arrested during ICA operations. PHOTOS: ICA

SINGAPORE - More people were arrested for providing lodging or work to immigration offenders last year, although fewer people were convicted for marriages of convenience.

Statistics released by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) on Friday (Feb 19), showed that 416 harbourers and 91 errant employers were caught, representing a 59 per cent increase compared to the year before.

This, the ICA said, was due to focused and coordinated enforcement efforts conducted with other agencies such as the police and Ministry of Manpower.

GRAPHIC: IMMIGRATION & CHECKPOINTS AUTHORITY

Almost half of the harbourers arrested last year were Singaporeans, while errant employers, who engaged immigration offenders, came from industries such as construction, food and beverage, and cleaning services.

There was also a 2 per cent rise in the number of contraband smuggling cases last year.

The ICA detected 95,677 cases at checkpoints last year, up from 93,380 the year before.

It said that, as online shopping becomes more popular, an emerging trend is the smuggling of contraband items via parcels and packages shipped into the country.

A total of 18,419 contraband cases were detected in parcels and packages last year, up from 14,289 in 2014. Common items included stun guns and sex enhancement pills.

The ICA statistics also showed that there had been a 62 per cent drop in the number of people convicted of marriage of convenience offences. A total of 64 people were arrested in 2015, down from 170 in 2014.

There was also a 7 per cent drop in the number of immigration offenders, down from 2,040 to 1,901.

The number of illegal immigrants arrested fell about 11 per cent from 350 in 2014 to 310 in 2015. The number of overstayers arrested also dropped about 6 per cent from 1,690 in 2014 to 1,591 last year.

This continued decline was due to ICA's enforcement and public education.

ICA added that it will continue to work closely with community partners, with ambassadors reaching out to home owners and estate agents on the need to conduct necessary checks on potential tenants.

It also conducted awareness talks at work sites to remind foreign workers of the serious consequences of overstaying.

"In this current security climate, ICA has stepped up its border control measures and will continue to conduct stringent checks on all travellers, goods and conveyances," said ICA commissioner Clarence Yeo.

He added: "At the same time, we urge the community, our fellow Singaporeans, to work hand-in-hand with us to help keep our country safe and secure."