100% checks on departing vehicles will affect trade and travel, says ICA in response to fugitive couple escape

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While all vehicles entering Singapore’s land checkpoints are checked by immigration officers, doing the same for every outgoing vehicle would have a significant impact on trade and travel, said the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) on Sunday (Jul 24).

The issue has been underscored by the recent news of a fugitive couple who fled Singapore by hiding in the container compartment of a lorry. The pair had allegedly failed to deliver luxury watches and bags worth at least S$20 million.

Arrest warrants and Interpol notices have been issued against the couple. The lorry driver has already been charged with helping them escape.

ICA said Singapore’s land checkpoints are one of the busiest land crossings in the world. Before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, about 200,000 travelers departed daily, according to ICA.

“Any delay in clearing departure traffic during peak hours can cause traffic tailback onto our roads inland, such as BKE (Bukit Timah Expressway) for Woodlands Checkpoint and AYE (Ayer Rajah Expressway) for Tuas Checkpoint,” said ICA.

“It would also disrupt trade flows between Singapore and Malaysia.”

ICA said it calibrated departure checks based on Singapore’s prevailing security posture.

“For example, enhanced checks will be conducted on departing conveyances in the aftermath of major security incidents to prevent the perpetrators from leaving Singapore.”

Explaining why all incoming vehicles are checked while not every outgoing one is, ICA said it takes an “arrival-centric approach” to border security.

As for departing vehicles, the agency adopts a “risk management approach” to balance security checks and facilitate smooth departure clearance at the checkpoints.

ICA said that this is a common practice internationally, adding that it also helps to optimise resources.

On a day-to-day basis, ICA said it conducts regular and random checks on departing vehicles to deter and detect attempts to depart Singapore illegally.

This covers car boots, the luggage and engine compartments of buses, as well as the cabin and container compartments of lorries.

“Targeted and thorough checks may also be conducted on departing conveyances based on risk profiling and information received,” said ICA.

“While the checks may not be 100 per cent, they are not minimal or negligible in number.”



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