COS 2021: Border Controls amidst COVID-19

Ms Sylvia Lim (Aljunied): The COVID-19 pandemic has seen the closure of borders and limited travel between countries.

This situation has disrupted the usual movement of foreigners into and out of Singapore. As far as entry is concerned, new requirements for quarantine, purpose of entry and staggering the daily numbers allowed in have been imposed. As for exit, limited modes of travel mean that short term visits may need to be extended repeatedly. Even for those who have violated the law, or completed serving prison sentences, repatriation will be delayed.

We see our residents facing such issues which require interfacing with the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) more intensively than before. For Singaporeans with foreign family members already in Singapore, repeated applications to ICA may have to be made for extension of visit passes due to lack of flights out. Others who want their family members to come in, face additional paperwork with the safe travel office. In the case of foreigners who are suspected to have broken the law or who have been convicted and sentenced, their continued presence in Singapore is not ideal and may pose additional risk.

To this end, I would like to find out how the Ministry and in particular, the ICA, has managed the unusual manpower requirements in the current COVID-19 situation. On the one hand, borders are mostly closed. But on the other hand, additional controls and paperwork mean officers may need to be redeployed or additional manpower may be engaged.

For foreigners who are awaiting repatriation, have additional holding areas been needed to detain ex-prisoners who are awaiting return to their home countries? Finally, given the stresses caused by such work disruptions and upheavals, how are the officers coping? 

Ministry of Home Affairs
1 March 2021

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