More entering Singapore using automated clearance: ICA

Travellers using contactless clearance. The level of automation will go up even more by 2022, as ICA develops its New Clearance Concept.
Travellers using contactless clearance. The level of automation will go up even more by 2022, as ICA develops its New Clearance Concept. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

More travellers are gaining entry into Singapore using automated lanes at immigration land checkpoints - 55 per cent did so last year, against 49 per cent in 2017.

More measures are in place for such automated clearance instead of through an officer, according to an annual statistics report released by the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) yesterday.

The infrastructural improvements include the installation of 164 automated clearance lanes at Woodlands and Tuas checkpoints, helping to speed up clearance for motorcyclists by 30 per cent.

ICA also began contactless clearance at the checkpoints last April and November.

The level of automation will go up even more by 2022, as ICA develops its New Clearance Concept for an automated border control system. Based on iris and facial biometrics, the system will allow Singaporeans - and, later, registered foreigners - to pass through immigration gates without having to produce their passports.

This rise in the use of automation and technology for immigration clearance comes as the agency processed over 217 million travellers and 10.6 million consignments, containers and parcels entering Singapore last year - about five million more travellers and 300,000 more cargo items than in 2018.

These new numbers also mark a 10.2 per cent rise in travellers and 20 per cent hike in cargo handled by ICA against 2015 figures.

"The volume of travellers and cargo is expected to increase further. ICA has embarked on a multi-year transformation plan, leveraging technology and upskilling our people, to better safeguard our borders while enhancing the facilitation of the movement of people and goods," said ICA Commissioner Marvin Sim.

"Whether in peacetime or times of crises, ICA will spare no effort to secure our borders and remain steadfast in our mission to keep Singapore safe and secure."

ICA also mounted more than 100 operations a month last year to detect and remove immigration offenders from Singapore. The number of such offenders arrested fell by 13 per cent last year, with 932 cases, down from 1,071 in 2018.

One case involved 56 Myanmar and Indian nationals working illegally at cemeteries who were convicted of overstaying and illegal entry into Singapore - 39 were nabbed at Choa Chu Kang Cemetery in raids conducted with the Ministry of Manpower. The other 17 illegal grave diggers were arrested at or near other cemeteries. Several surrendered to ICA.

In one case, Tuas Checkpoint officers became suspicious when they detected anomalies in concrete blocks in a Malaysia-registered lorry. Drilling holes in the blocks, the officers discovered 12,479 cartons of duty-unpaid cigarettes encased inside - the largest haul of duty-unpaid cigarettes uncovered by ICA in the past five years.

The 41-year-old male Malaysian exporter of the concrete blocks was sentenced to 36 months' jail in September for smuggling contraband cigarettes.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 12, 2020, with the headline 'More entering S'pore using automated clearance: ICA'. Print Edition | Subscribe