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Big jump in travellers using impersonated, different identities at Singapore checkpoints

Big jump in travellers using impersonated, different identities at Singapore checkpoints
A road sign in Singapore pointing to the Woodlands train checkpoint. (Photo: CNA/Rashvinjeet S Bedi)

SINGAPORE: As traveller volume surged in 2022, authorities detected a 15-fold increase in the number of people attempting to enter Singapore under a different or impersonated identity. 

While there were just 28 such cases in 2021, that figure jumped to 441 last year, said the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) on Friday (Feb 17).

Using "multi-modal biometric clearance systems" at the checkpoints resulted in the better detection of travellers who tried to slip in using an impersonated identity or an identity different from their previous trips to Singapore.

ICA said it cleared almost 105 million travellers last year, compared to just six million in 2021. 

With travel volumes almost returning to pre-COVID levels at land checkpoints, ICA said "rigorous and regular" enforcement operations helped keep related crime statistics down. 


ICA officers also detected a rise in the number of travellers using forged or tampered documents - increasing from just one in 2021 to 21 in 2022. 

Away from the checkpoints, ICA also arrested more immigration offenders through in-land operations.  

A total of 414 offenders were arrested, of which 357 were overstayers - foreigners who have remained in Singapore beyond the validity of their passes. In 2021, 299 overstayers were arrested. 

The remaining arrests were illegal immigrants, rising slightly from 56 cases in 2021 to 57 in 2022. 

However, the number of harbourers and employers of immigration offenders decreased by four per cent, from 236 in 2021 to 226 this year. 

"The majority of the harbourers arrested in 2022 were either family members or friends of the immigration offenders, who claimed to have overlooked to extend or renew the offenders' immigration pass or did not check their immigration status," said ICA. 

The drop in arrests can be attributed to the fall in harbourers arrested - from 184 in 2021 to 166 in 2022. 

The number of arrests for employers of immigration offenders rose by eight cases in 2022, with 60 offenders caught. 

"The majority of the employers had failed to exercise due diligence; they did not conduct checks before employing them or did not ensure that their immigration status in Singapore remained valid throughout the employment period," said ICA. 

The agency added that it would continue to "come down hard" on harbourers and employers of immigration offenders, to deny them shelter and means of livelihood, making it difficult for them to stay illegally in Singapore. 

Employers and members of the public must deter overstayers by denying them shelter and employment, and report suspected cases, added ICA. 

Last year also saw an increase in the arrests for marriage-of-convenience (MOC) related offences, from one to nine people compared to 2021. 

The nine arrests included four couples and an individual who arranged the MOC for one of the couples caught. 

"The foreign spouses had engaged in a MOC in order to prolong their stay in Singapore, with the local spouses receiving gratification in the form of money for assisting in the application for immigration facilities," ICA reported. 


ICA said its officers successfully foiled multiple attempts to smuggle significant consignments of contraband and illicit drugs in Singapore via land, air and sea checkpoints. 

The number of contraband cases detected rose significantly from 27,000 in 2021 to 35,000 in 2022. 

ICA said huge consignments of contraband cigarettes and drugs were found hidden among legitimate consignments transported by lorries. 

The smuggling methods were described as "sophisticated", with offenders hiding contraband in the convertible hood, spare tyres, door panels or in various modified compartments in the vehicles.

Source: CNA/at(ac)


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