SINGAPORE: The majority of Singaporeans who travel overseas do not bother to e-register with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA), according to Senior Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Maliki Osman.
Responding to Tanjong Pagar GRC Member of Parliament Joan Pereira during the debate on his ministry's budget on Thursday (Mar 2), Mr Maliki said there is a “huge disparity” between the 400,000 e-registrants and the 7.5 million outbound trips made by Singaporeans last year - and this excludes the more than 16 million overland trips to Malaysia annually.
“E-registrants will receive information on how to contact our nearest overseas mission and MFA can quickly contact e-registered Singaporean travellers during emergencies to ascertain the need for urgent assistance. So I cannot emphasise again how important it is for Singaporeans to e-register,” he said.
To make it easier for Singaporeans to update MFA on their safety status during emergencies, the MFA@SG mobile app will soon include a safety check feature. E-registration and safety checks using chatbots will also be available in the future, and MFA will also introduce a virtual assistant to make it easier to find information on its websites.
Eight out of 10 calls that MFA currently receives during emergency situations are from the next-of-kin of Singaporeans who did not e-register, Mr Maliki said. He cited an example of a Singaporean in China who had not e-registered, but complained that the ministry did not reach out to him after a disaster occurred.
Mr Maliki also recounted that during the attempted coup in Turkey last July, a 13-member youth football team and some of their parents were stranded in Antalya. MFA worked with Singapore Airlines to arrange for their departure from Antalya to Gothenburg, Sweden, so that they could arrive in time for the Gothia World Youth Cup.
In the same month, 86 people were killed after a truck ploughed into crowds celebrating Bastille Day in Nice, France. MFA contacted all registered Singaporeans in France, and when it found out that a Singaporean student had been seriously injured, embassy staff members extended consular assistance to him and his parents who flew to Nice to be with him.